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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013 Apr;52(4):431-440.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.01.010. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

White matter microstructure in subjects with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and their siblings.

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Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California-Los Angeles, USA.



Previous voxel-based and regions-of-interest (ROI)-based diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies have found above-normal mean diffusivity (MD) and below-normal fractional anisotropy (FA) in subjects with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, findings remain mixed, and few studies have examined the contribution of ADHD familial liability to white matter microstructure.


We used refined DTI tractography methods to examine MD, FA, axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) of the anterior thalamic radiation, cingulum, corticospinal tract, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, forceps major, forceps minor, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and uncinate fasciculus in children and adolescents with ADHD (n = 56), unaffected siblings of ADHD probands (n = 31), and healthy controls (n = 17).


Subjects with ADHD showed significantly higher MD than controls in the anterior thalamic radiation, forceps minor, and superior longitudinal fasciculus. Unaffected siblings of subjects with ADHD displayed similar differences in MD as subjects with ADHD. Although none of the tested tracts showed a significant effect of FA, the tracts with elevated MD likewise displayed elevated AD both in subjects with ADHD and in unaffected siblings. Differences in RD between subjects with ADHD, unaffected siblings, and controls were not as widespread as differences in MD and AD.


Our findings suggest that disruptions in white matter microstructure occur in several large white matter pathways in association with ADHD and indicate a familial liability for the disorder. Furthermore, MD may reflect these abnormalities more sensitively than FA.

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