Linking ADHD and Behavioral Assessment Through Identification of Shared Diagnostic Task-Based Functional Connections

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A mixed literature implicates atypical connectivity involving attentional, reward and task inhibition networks in ADHD. The neural mechanisms underlying the utility of behavioral tasks in ADHD diagnosis are likewise underexplored. We hypothesized that a machine-learning classifier may use task-based functional connectivity to compute a joint probability function that identifies connectivity signatures that accurately predict ADHD diagnosis and performance on a clinically-relevant behavioral task, providing an explicit neural mechanism linking behavioral phenotype to diagnosis. We analyzed archival MRI and behavioral data of 80 participants (64 male) who had completed the go/no-go task from the longitudinal follow-up of the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA 168) (mean age = 24 years). Cross-mutual information within a functionally-defined mask measured functional connectivity for each task run. Multilayer feedforward classifier models identified the subset of functional connections that predicted clinical diagnosis (ADHD vs. Control) and split-half performance on the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). A sample of random models trained on functional connectivity profiles predicted validation set clinical diagnosis and IGT performance with 0.91 accuracy and d′ > 2.9, indicating very high sensitivity and specificity. We identified the most diagnostic functional connections between visual and ventral attentional networks and the anterior default mode network. Our results show that task-based functional connectivity is a biomarker of ADHD. Our analytic framework provides a template approach that explicitly ties behavioral assessment measures to both clinical diagnosis, and functional connectivity. This may differentiate otherwise similar diagnoses, and promote more efficacious intervention strategies.




McNorgan, C., Judson, C., Handzlik, D., & Holden, J. G. (2020). Linking ADHD and Behavioral Assessment Through Identification of Shared Diagnostic Task-Based Functional Connections. Frontiers in Physiology, 11.

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