Frontal Volume as a Potential Source of the Comorbidity Between attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder and Reading Disorders

Behav Brain Res. 2020 Mar 2;381:112382. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112382. Epub 2020 Jan 7.


Prefrontal volume reductions commonly are demonstrated in ADHD, but the literature examining prefrontal volume in reading disorders (RD) is scant despite their also having executive functioning (EF) deficits. Furthermore, only a few anatomical studies have examined the frontal lobes in comorbid RD/ADHD, though they have EF deficits similar to RD and ADHD. Hence, we examined frontal gyri volume in children with RD, ADHD, RD/ADHD and controls, as well as their relationship to EF for gyri found to differ between groups. We found right inferior frontal (RIF) volume was smaller in ADHD, and smaller volume was related to worse behavioral regulation. Left superior frontal (LSF) volume was larger in RD than ADHD, and its size was negatively related to basic reading ability. Left middle frontal (LMF) volume was largest in RD/ADHD overall. Further, its volume was not related to basic reading nor behavioral regulation but was related to worse attentional control, suggesting some specificity in its EF relationship. When examining hypotheses on the etiology of RD/ADHD, RD/ADHD was commensurate with ADHD in RIF volume and both RD and ADHD in LSF volume (being midway between the groups), consistent with the common etiology hypothesis. Nevertheless, they also had an additional gyrus affected: LMF, consistent with the cognitive subtype hypothesis in its specificity to RD/ADHD. The few other frontal aMRI studies on RD/ADHD supported both hypotheses as well. Given this, future research should continue to focus on frontal morphology in its endeavors to find neurobiological contributors to the comorbidity between RD and ADHD.

Keywords: ADHD; Children; Comorbid RD/ADHD; Frontal lobe; MRI; Reading disorders.