Cortical thinning of the attention and executive function networks in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Makris N, Biederman J, Valera EM, Bush G, Kaiser J, Kennedy DN, Caviness VS, Faraone SV, Seidman LJ

Cereb. Cortex 2007 Jun;17(6):1364-75

PMID: 16920883


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been associated with structural alterations in brain networks influencing cognitive and motor behaviors. Volumetric studies in children identify abnormalities in cortical, striatal, callosal, and cerebellar regions. In a prior volumetric study, we found that ADHD adults had significantly smaller overall cortical gray matter, prefrontal, and anterior cingulate volumes than matched controls. Thickness and surface area are additional indicators of integrity of cytoarchitecture in the cortex. To expand upon our earlier results and further refine the regions of structural abnormality, we carried out a structural magnetic resonance imaging study of cortical thickness in the same sample of adults with ADHD (n = 24) and controls (n = 18), hypothesizing that the cortical networks underlying attention and executive function (EF) would be most affected. Compared with healthy adults, adults with ADHD showed selective thinning of cerebral cortex in the networks that subserve attention and EF. In the present study, we found significant cortical thinning in ADHD in a distinct cortical network supporting attention especially in the right hemisphere involving the inferior parietal lobule, the dorsolateral prefrontal, and the anterior cingulate cortices. This is the first documentation that ADHD in adults is associated with thinner cortex in the cortical networks that modulate attention and EF.