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J Neurosci. 2013 Jun 26;33(26):10676-87. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4793-12.2013.

Probabilistic diffusion tractography and graph theory analysis reveal abnormal white matter structural connectivity networks in drug-naive boys with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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  • 1Institute of Mental Health, Peking University, and Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Ministry of Health, Beijing 100191, China.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by core symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. Neuroimaging studies have suggested that these behavioral disturbances are associated with abnormal functional connectivity among brain regions. However, the alterations in the structural connections that underlie these behavioral and functional deficits remain poorly understood. Here, we used diffusion magnetic resonance imaging and probabilistic tractography method to examine whole-brain white matter (WM) structural connectivity in 30 drug-naive boys with ADHD and 30 healthy controls. The WM networks of the human brain were constructed by estimating inter-regional connectivity probability. The topological properties of the resultant networks (e.g., small-world and network efficiency) were then analyzed using graph theoretical approaches. Nonparametric permutation tests were applied for between-group comparisons of these graphic metrics. We found that both the ADHD and control groups showed an efficient small-world organization in the whole-brain WM networks, suggesting a balance between structurally segregated and integrated connectivity patterns. However, relative to controls, patients with ADHD exhibited decreased global efficiency and increased shortest path length, with the most pronounced efficiency decreases in the left parietal, frontal, and occipital cortices. Intriguingly, the ADHD group showed decreased structural connectivity in the prefrontal-dominant circuitry and increased connectivity in the orbitofrontal-striatal circuitry, and these changes significantly correlated with the inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms, respectively. The present study shows disrupted topological organization of large-scale WM networks in ADHD, extending our understanding of how structural disruptions of neuronal circuits underlie behavioral disturbances in patients with ADHD.

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