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      Disorder-specific grey matter deficits in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder relative to autism spectrum disorder

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          Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are two common childhood disorders that exhibit genetic and behavioural overlap and have abnormalities in similar brain systems, in particular in frontal and cerebellar regions. This study compared the two neurodevelopmental disorders to investigate shared and disorder-specific structural brain abnormalities.


          Forty-four predominantly medication-naïve male adolescents with ADHD, 19 medication-naïve male adolescents with ASD and 33 age-matched healthy male controls were scanned using high-resolution T1-weighted volumetric imaging in a 3-T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) was used to test for group-level differences in structural grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes.


          There was a significant group difference in the GM of the right posterior cerebellum and left middle/superior temporal gyrus (MTG/STG). Post-hoc analyses revealed that this was due to ADHD boys having a significantly smaller right posterior cerebellar GM volume compared to healthy controls and ASD boys, who did not differ from each other. ASD boys had a larger left MTG/STG GM volume relative to healthy controls and at a more lenient threshold relative to ADHD boys.


          The study shows for the first time that the GM reduction in the cerebellum in ADHD is disorder specific relative to ASD whereas GM enlargement in the MTG/STG in ASD may be disorder specific relative to ADHD. This study is a first step towards elucidating disorder-specific structural biomarkers for these two related childhood disorders.

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          Most cited references 73

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          Developmental trajectories of brain volume abnormalities in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

          Various anatomic brain abnormalities have been reported for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with varying methods, small samples, cross-sectional designs, and without accounting for stimulant drug exposure. To compare regional brain volumes at initial scan and their change over time in medicated and previously unmedicated male and female patients with ADHD and healthy controls. Case-control study conducted from 1991-2001 at the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md, of 152 children and adolescents with ADHD (age range, 5-18 years) and 139 age- and sex-matched controls (age range, 4.5-19 years) recruited from the local community, who contributed 544 anatomic magnetic resonance images. Using completely automated methods, initial volumes and prospective age-related changes of total cerebrum, cerebellum, gray and white matter for the 4 major lobes, and caudate nucleus of the brain were compared in patients and controls. On initial scan, patients with ADHD had significantly smaller brain volumes in all regions, even after adjustment for significant covariates. This global difference was reflected in smaller total cerebral volumes (-3.2%, adjusted F(1,280) = 8.30, P =.004) and in significantly smaller cerebellar volumes (-3.5%, adjusted F(1,280) = 12.29, P =.001). Compared with controls, previously unmedicated children with ADHD demonstrated significantly smaller total cerebral volumes (overall F(2,288) = 6.65; all pairwise comparisons Bonferroni corrected, -5.8%; P =.002) and cerebellar volumes (-6.2%, F( 2,288) = 8.97, P<.001). Unmedicated children with ADHD also exhibited strikingly smaller total white matter volumes (F(2,288) = 11.65) compared with controls (-10.7%, P<.001) and with medicated children with ADHD (-8.9%, P<.001). Volumetric abnormalities persisted with age in total and regional cerebral measures (P =.002) and in the cerebellum (P =.003). Caudate nucleus volumes were initially abnormal for patients with ADHD (P =.05), but diagnostic differences disappeared as caudate volumes decreased for patients and controls during adolescence. Results were comparable for male and female patients on all measures. Frontal and temporal gray matter, caudate, and cerebellar volumes correlated significantly with parent- and clinician-rated severity measures within the ADHD sample (Pearson coefficients between -0.16 and -0.26; all P values were <.05). Developmental trajectories for all structures, except caudate, remain roughly parallel for patients and controls during childhood and adolescence, suggesting that genetic and/or early environmental influences on brain development in ADHD are fixed, nonprogressive, and unrelated to stimulant treatment.
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            Meta-analysis of structural imaging findings in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

            Although there are many structural neuroimaging studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, there are inconsistencies across studies and no consensus regarding which brain regions show the most robust area or volumetric reductions relative to control subjects. Our goal was to statistically analyze structural imaging data via a meta-analysis to help resolve these issues. We searched the MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases through January 2005. Studies must have been written in English, used magnetic resonance imaging, and presented the means and standard deviations of regions assessed. Data were extracted by one of the authors and verified independently by another author. Analyses were performed using STATA with metan, metabias, and metainf programs. A meta-analysis including all regions across all studies indicated global reductions for ADHD subjects compared with control subjects, standardized mean difference=.408, p<.001. Regions most frequently assessed and showing the largest differences included cerebellar regions, the splenium of the corpus callosum, total and right cerebral volume, and right caudate. Several frontal regions assessed in only two studies also showed large significant differences. This meta-analysis provides a quantitative analysis of neuroanatomical abnormalities in ADHD and information that can be used to guide future studies.
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              Brain growth across the life span in autism: age-specific changes in anatomical pathology.

              Autism is marked by overgrowth of the brain at the earliest ages but not at older ages when decreases in structural volumes and neuron numbers are observed instead. This has led to the theory of age-specific anatomic abnormalities in autism. Here we report age-related changes in brain size in autistic and typical subjects from 12 months to 50 years of age based on analyses of 586 longitudinal and cross-sectional MRI scans. This dataset is several times larger than the largest autism study to date. Results demonstrate early brain overgrowth during infancy and the toddler years in autistic boys and girls, followed by an accelerated rate of decline in size and perhaps degeneration from adolescence to late middle age in this disorder. We theorize that underlying these age-specific changes in anatomic abnormalities in autism, there may also be age-specific changes in gene expression, molecular, synaptic, cellular, and circuit abnormalities. A peak age for detecting and studying the earliest fundamental biological underpinnings of autism is prenatal life and the first three postnatal years. Studies of the older autistic brain may not address original causes but are essential to discovering how best to help the older aging autistic person. Lastly, the theory of age-specific anatomic abnormalities in autism has broad implications for a wide range of work on the disorder including the design, validation, and interpretation of animal model, lymphocyte gene expression, brain gene expression, and genotype/CNV-anatomic phenotype studies. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Psychol Med
                Psychol Med
                Psychological Medicine
                Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK )
                April 2015
                17 September 2014
                : 45
                : 5
                : 965-976
                [1 ]Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry , King's College London , UK
                [2 ]Department of Psychological Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine , National University of Singapore , Singapore
                [3 ]Department of Neuroimaging, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London , UK
                [4 ]NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) , London, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Address for correspondence: L. Lim, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry , King's College London , London SE5 8AF, UK. (Email: lena.lim@ 123456kcl.ac.uk )
                S0033291714001974 00197
                © Cambridge University Press 2014

                This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 3, References: 115, Pages: 12
                Original Articles


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