Differential brain development with low and high IQ in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

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Abstract

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and intelligence (IQ) are both heritable phenotypes. Overlapping genetic effects have been suggested to influence both, with neuroimaging work suggesting similar overlap in terms of morphometric properties of the brain. Together, this evidence suggests that the brain changes characteristic of ADHD may vary as a function of IQ. This study investigated this hypothesis in a sample of 108 children with ADHD and 106 typically developing controls, who participated in a cross-sectional anatomical MRI study. A subgroup of 64 children also participated in a diffusion tensor imaging scan. Brain volumes, local cortical thickness and average cerebral white matter microstructure were analyzed in relation to diagnostic group and IQ. Dimensional analyses investigated possible group differences in the relationship between anatomical measures and IQ. Second, the groups were split into above and below median IQ subgroups to investigate possible differences in the trajectories of cortical development. Dimensionally, cerebral gray matter volume and cerebral white matter microstructure were positively associated with IQ for controls, but not for ADHD. In the analyses of the below and above median IQ subgroups, we found no differences from controls in cerebral gray matter volume in ADHD with below-median IQ, but a delay of cortical development in a number of regions, including prefrontal areas. Conversely, in ADHD with above-median IQ, there were significant reductions from controls in cerebral gray matter volume, but no local differences in the trajectories of cortical development. In conclusion, the basic relationship between IQ and neuroanatomy appears to be altered in ADHD. Our results suggest that there may be multiple brain phenotypes associated with ADHD, where ADHD combined with above median IQ is characterized by small, more global reductions in brain volume that are stable over development, whereas ADHD with below median IQ is associated more with a delay of cortical development. © 2012 de Zeeuw et al.

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de Zeeuw, P., Schnack, H. G., van Belle, J., Weusten, J., van Dijk, S., Langen, M., … Durston, S. (2012). Differential brain development with low and high IQ in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. PLoS ONE, 7(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0035770

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