Unimpaired social cognition in adult patients with ADHD: brain volumetric and behavioral results

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2021 Nov 16;16(11):1160-1169. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsab060.


The present study aimed to investigate whether adult patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show deficits in social cognition and to identify the structural neural correlates of social cognitive skills in ADHD. Twenty-six adult patients with ADHD and 26 matched healthy control participants performed the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition and underwent a structural magnetic resonance imaging scan. We compared theory of mind (ToM) performance between ADHD patients and healthy controls. Using voxel-based morphometry, we further compared gray matter volumes in regions that are critical for social cognition between the two groups and examined whether ToM performance was correlated with brain morphometry measures. We did not observe any between-group differences in ToM abilities or regional gray matter volumes. Across both groups, performance on affective aspects of ToM correlated positively with gray matter volumes in the medial part of the superior frontal gyri, which is typically involved in social cognition. This study is the first to relate brain structure to social cognitive abilities in adult patients with ADHD. Although our sample was small and heterogeneous, with half of the patients showing mild-to-moderate psychiatric comorbidities, our results may encourage longitudinal studies that relate social cognitive development in childhood and adolescence to brain maturation of ADHD patients.

Keywords: affective; cognitive; empathy; structural MRI; theory of mind; voxel-based morphometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / diagnostic imaging
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / psychology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognition
  • Gray Matter
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Social Cognition
  • Theory of Mind*