Background: People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have abnormalities in frontal, temporal, parietal and striato-thalamic networks. It is unclear to what extent these abnormalities are distinctive or shared. This comparative meta-analysis aimed to identify the most consistent disorder-differentiating and shared structural and functional abnormalities.
Methods: Systematic literature search was conducted for whole-brain voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of cognitive control comparing people with ASD or ADHD with typically developing controls. Regional gray matter volume (GMV) and fMRI abnormalities during cognitive control were compared in the overall sample and in age-, sex- and IQ-matched subgroups with seed-based d mapping meta-analytic methods.
Results: Eighty-six independent VBM (1533 ADHD and 1295 controls; 1445 ASD and 1477 controls) and 60 fMRI datasets (1001 ADHD and 1004 controls; 335 ASD and 353 controls) were identified. The VBM meta-analyses revealed ADHD-differentiating decreased ventromedial orbitofrontal (z = 2.22, p < 0.0001) but ASD-differentiating increased bilateral temporal and right dorsolateral prefrontal GMV (zs ⩾ 1.64, ps ⩽ 0.002). The fMRI meta-analyses of cognitive control revealed ASD-differentiating medial prefrontal underactivation but overactivation in bilateral ventrolateral prefrontal cortices and precuneus (zs ⩾ 1.04, ps ⩽ 0.003). During motor response inhibition specifically, ADHD relative to ASD showed right inferior fronto-striatal underactivation (zs ⩾ 1.14, ps ⩽ 0.003) but shared right anterior insula underactivation.
Conclusions: People with ADHD and ASD have mostly distinct structural abnormalities, with enlarged fronto-temporal GMV in ASD and reduced orbitofrontal GMV in ADHD; and mostly distinct functional abnormalities, which were more pronounced in ASD.
Keywords: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; autism spectrum disorder; cognitive control; fMRI; meta-analysis; voxel-based morphometry.