Background: Few studies have sought to identify, in a regionally unbiased way, the precise cortical and subcortical regions that are affected by white matter abnormalities in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study aimed to derive a comprehensive, whole-brain characterization of connectomic disturbances in ADHD. Methods: Using diffusion tensor imaging, whole-brain tractography, and an imaging connectomics approach, we characterized altered white matter connectivity in 71 children and adolescents with ADHD compared with 26 healthy control subjects. White matter differences were further delineated between patients with (n = 40) and without (n = 26) the predominantly hyperactive/impulsive subtype of ADHD. Results: A significant network comprising 25 distinct fiber bundles linking 23 different brain regions spanning frontal, striatal, and cerebellar brain regions showed altered white matter structure in ADHD patients (p <.05, family-wise error-corrected). Moreover, fractional anisotropy in some of these fiber bundles correlated with attentional disturbances. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder subtypes were differentiated by a right-lateralized network (p <.05, family-wise error-corrected) predominantly linking frontal, cingulate, and supplementary motor areas. Fractional anisotropy in this network was also correlated with continuous performance test scores. Conclusions: Using an unbiased, whole-brain, data-driven approach, we demonstrated abnormal white matter connectivity in ADHD. The correlations observed with measures of attentional performance underscore the functional importance of these connectomic disturbances for the clinical phenotype of ADHD. A distributed pattern of white matter microstructural integrity separately involving frontal, striatal, and cerebellar brain regions, rather than direct frontostriatal connectivity, appears to be disrupted in children and adolescents with ADHD.
- diffusion tensor imaging
- white matter