Psychological Medicine

Original Article

Distributed grey and white matter deficits in hyperkinetic disorder: MRI evidence for anatomical abnormality in an attentional network

S.  OVERMEYER  a1, E. T.  BULLMORE  c1 a1, J.  SUCKLING  a1, A.  SIMMONS  a1, S. C. R.  WILLIAMS  a1, P. J.  SANTOSH  a1 and E.  TAYLOR  a1
a1 From the Institute of Psychiatry and Guy's, King's and St Thomas's School of Medicine, London; and Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge


Background. Previous neuroimaging studies of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have demonstrated anatomic and functional abnormalities predominantly in frontal and striatal grey matter. Here we report the use of novel image analysis methods, which do not require prior selection of regions of interest, to characterize distributed morphological deficits of both grey and white matter associated with ADHD.

Methods. Eighteen children with a refined phenotype of ADHD, who also met ICD-10 criteria for hyperkinetic disorder (mean age 10·4 years), and 16 normal children (mean age 10·3 years) were compared using magnetic resonance imaging. The groups were matched for handedness, sex, height, weight and head circumference. Morphological differences between groups were estimated by fitting a linear model at each voxel in standard space, applying a threshold to the resulting voxel statistic maps to generate clusters of spatially contiguous suprathreshold voxels, and testing cluster ‘mass’, or the sum of suprathreshold voxel statistics in each 2D cluster, by repeated random resampling of the data.

Results. The hyperkinetic children had significant grey matter deficits in right superior frontal gyrus (Brodmann area (BA) 8/9), right posterior cingulate gyrus (BA 30) and the basal ganglia bilaterally (especially right globus pallidus and putamen). They also demonstrated significant central white matter deficits in the left hemisphere anterior to the pyramidal tracts and superior to the basal ganglia.

Conclusions. This pattern of spatially distributed grey matter deficit in the right hemisphere is compatible with the hypothesis that ADHD is associated with disruption of a large scale neurocognitive network for attention. The left hemispheric white matter deficits may be due to dysmyelination.

c1 Address for correspondence: Professor Edward T. Bullmore, University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ.