JAN 29, 2024 10:00 AM PST

ADHD Represented by Differences Across the Whole Brain

WRITTEN BY: Amielle Moreno

The diverse manifestations of ADHD

Identifying aspects at the neuron, region, or network level has offered significant but limited insight into how ADHD manifests as a diverse array of symptoms. Instead of spotlighting a specific brain region or network, a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience follows a new trend in neuroscience: whole-brain analysis.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a complex neurodevelopmental condition seen in children and adults, doesn't conform to a one-size-fits-all pattern. The spectrum of ADHD symptoms is varied—from difficulties with delayed gratification and excessive fidgeting to impulsivity, careless mistakes, and daydreaming.

Connectome-Based Predictive Modeling

Connectome-based predictive modeling (CPM) emerged as a powerful tool for understanding what distinguishes the brains of individuals with certain conditions. With massive data sets and analysis software freely available, human imaging studies are characterizing the qualities of brains that display everything from early onset psychosis to intelligence. A team led by Professor Michael A. Mooney contributed to the growing trend by deciphering the functional connectivity associated with ADHD.

Polyneuro Risk Scores Define the ADHD Brain

Mooney et al. generated their CPM by employing two large datasets containing resting-state connectivity MRI information from children aged 9 to 10. The outcome of their analysis was what the researcher call a polyneuro risk score (PNRS) for ADHD.

Analogous to polygenic scores, which predict the genetic risk of a condition by looking at the genome, the PNRS predicts ADHD symptoms by distinguishing the entire brain's connectome. By capturing the connectivity trends across the whole brain, the score offers a holistic understanding of ADHD's physiological correlates.

Mooney et al.'s findings support the notion that ADHD is marked by widespread dysconnectivity. This distributed impact may explain the heterogeneity in how ADHD symptoms present themselves.

Predictive Power of Understanding the Whole

In conclusion, Mooney et al.'s study represents a trend in human brain imaging: thinking of neuropathology as general characteristics evident across the brain. There’s hope that the PNRS might offer predictive utility. Although connections involving all networks explain only 4% of the variation in symptoms, this is a staggering eight times more than the most significant regional connection could account for. Mooney et al. highlight that being in the top 10% of polyneuro risk scorers increases the odds of an ADHD diagnosis by 3.86 times. These researchers hope that their polyneuro risk, combined with genetic and environmental factors, can be a predictive tool for diagnosis and intervention.

Sources: CDC, Journal of Neuroscience

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Amielle Moreno earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Emory University and has dedicated her career to science communication, news coverage, and academic writing/editing. She is a published researcher who has branched out to author articles for various science websites. She recently published an original research article detailing her findings on how sensory areas of the brain respond to social sound. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her spinning the latest neuroscience news into comedy gold, hosting her podcast "Miss Behavior Journal Club." This fortnightly humorous podcast features the latest in behavioral research. Her goal in life is to defend and discover scientific truths.
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