Functional Disconnection of Frontal Cortex and Visual Cortex in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
BACKGROUND: Current pathophysiologic models of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) suggest that impaired functional connectivity within brain attention networks may contribute to the disorder. In this electroencephalographic (EEG) study, we analyzed cross-frequency amplitude correlations to investigate differences in cue-induced functional connectivity in typically developing children and children with ADHD. METHODS: Electroencephalographic activity was recorded in 25 children aged 8 to 12 years (14 with ADHD) while they performed a cross-modal attention task in which cues signaled the most likely (.75 probability) modality of an upcoming target. The power spectra of the EEG in the theta (3-5 Hz) and alpha (8-12 Hz) bands were calculated for the 1-sec interval after the cue and before the target while subjects prepared to discriminate the expected target. RESULTS: Both groups showed behavioral benefits of the predictive attentional cues, being faster and more accurate for validly cued targets (e.g., visual target preceded by a cue predicting a visual target) than to invalidly cued targets (e.g., visual target preceded by a cue predicting an auditory target); in addition, independent of cue-target validity, typical children were faster to respond overall. In the typically developing children, the alpha activity was differentially modulated by the two cues and anticorrelated with midfrontal theta activity; these EEG correlates of attentional control were not observed in the children with ADHD. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide neurophysiological evidence for a specific deficit in top-down attentional control in children with ADHD that is manifested as a functional disconnection between frontal and occipital cortex.