Connectivity supporting attention in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Anita D. Barber, Lisa A. Jacobson, Joanna L. Wexler, Mary Beth Nebel, Brian S. Caffo, James J. Pekar, Stewart H. Mostofsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intra-subject variability (ISV) is the most consistent behavioral deficit in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ISV may be associated with networks involved in sustaining task control (cingulo-opercular network: CON) and self-reflective lapses of attention (default mode network: DMN). The current study examined whether connectivity supporting attentional control is atypical in children with ADHD. Group differences in full-brain connection strength and brain-behavior associations with attentional control measures were examined for the late-developing CON and DMN in 50 children with ADHD and 50 typically-developing (TD) controls (ages 8-12 years). Children with ADHD had hyper-connectivity both within the CON and within the DMN. Full-brain behavioral associations were found for a number of between-network connections. Across both groups, more anti-correlation between DMN and occipital cortex supported better attentional control. However, in the TD group, this brain-behavior association was stronger and occurred for a more extensive set of DMN-occipital connections. Differential support for attentional control between the two groups occurred with a number of CON-DMN connections. For all CON-DMN connections identified, increased between-network anti-correlation was associated with better attentional control for the ADHD group, but worse attentional control in the TD group. A number of between-network connections with the medial frontal cortex, in particular, showed this relationship. Follow-up analyses revealed that these associations were specific to attentional control and were not due to individual differences in working memory, IQ, motor control, age, or scan motion. While CON-DMN anti-correlation is associated with improved attention in ADHD, other circuitry supports improved attention in TD children. Greater CON-DMN anti-correlation supported better attentional control in children with ADHD, but worse attentional control in TD children. On the other hand, greater DMN-occipital anti-correlation supported better attentional control in TD children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-81
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
StatePublished - 2015


  • ADHD
  • Attention
  • Default mode network
  • Intra-subject variability
  • Network
  • Resting-state connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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