Poor response to methylphenidate is associated with a smaller dorsal attentive network in adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Transl Psychiatry. 2023 Sep 30;13(1):303. doi: 10.1038/s41398-023-02598-w.


Stimulants, such as methylphenidate (MPH), are effective in treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but there is individual variability in response, especially in adults. To improve outcomes, we need to understand the factors associated with adult treatment response. This longitudinal study investigated whether pre-treatment anatomy of the fronto-striatal and fronto-parietal attentional networks was associated with MPH treatment response. 60 adults with ADHD underwent diffusion brain imaging before starting MPH treatment, and response was measured at two months. We tested the association between brain anatomy and treatment response by using regression-based approaches; and compared the identified anatomical characteristics with those of 20 matched neurotypical controls in secondary analyses. Finally, we explored whether combining anatomical with clinical and neuropsychological data through machine learning provided a more comprehensive profile of factors associated with treatment response. At a group level, a smaller left dorsal superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF I), a tract responsible for the voluntary control of attention, was associated with a significantly lower probability of being responders to two-month MPH-treatment. The association between the volume of the left SLF I and treatment response was driven by improvement on both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. Only non-responders significantly differed from controls in this tract metric. Finally, our machine learning approach identified clinico-neuropsychological factors associated with treatment response, such as higher cognitive performance and symptom severity at baseline. These novel findings add to our understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying response to MPH, pointing to the dorsal attentive network as playing a key role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / diagnostic imaging
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / drug therapy
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Methylphenidate* / therapeutic use


  • Methylphenidate
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants