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Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 13;9(1):298. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0614-3.

Motor cortex facilitation: a marker of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder co-occurrence in autism spectrum disorder.

Author information

1
Divisions of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA. ernest.pedapati@cchmc.org.
2
Division of Neurology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA. ernest.pedapati@cchmc.org.
3
Division of Neurology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
4
Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
5
Divisions of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
6
Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
7
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.
8
Divisions of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.

Abstract

The neural correlates distinguishing youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD-) and ASD with co-occurring Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ASD+) are poorly understood despite significant phenotypic and prognostic differences. Paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) measures, including intracortical facilitation (ICF), short interval cortical inhibition (SICI), and cortical silent period (CSP) were measured in an age matched cohort of youth with ASD- (n = 20), ASD + (n = 29), and controls (TDC) (n = 24). ASD- and ASD+ groups did not differ by IQ or social functioning; however, ASD+ had significantly higher inattention and hyperactivity ratings. ICF (higher ratio indicates greater facilitation) in ASD+ (Mean 1.0, SD 0.19) was less than ASD- (Mean 1.3, SD 0.36) or TDC (Mean 1.2, SD 0.24) (F2,68 = 6.5, p = 0.003; post-hoc tests, ASD+ vs either TDC or ASD-, p ≤ 0.05). No differences were found between groups for SICI or age corrected active/resting motor threshold (AMT/RMT). Across all ASD youth (ASD- and ASD+), ICF was inversely correlated with worse inattention (Conners-3 Inattention (r = -0.41; p < 0.01) and ADHDRS-IV Inattention percentile (r = -0.422, p < 0.01) scores. ICF remains intact in ASD- but is impaired in ASD+. Lack of ICF is associated with inattention and executive function across ASD. Taken with the present findings, ADHD may have a distinct electrophysiological "signature" in ASD youth. ICF may constitute an emerging biomarker to study the physiology of ADHD in ASD, which may align with disease prognosis or treatment response.

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