An fMRI auditory oddball study of combined-subtype attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Michael C. Stevens, Godfrey D. Pearlson, Kent A. Kiehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Objective: Studies of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have reliably found reduced amplitude event-related potentials (ERPs) measuring attention-related brain function, indicating impairment in the brain's ability to automatically orient attention to odd or novel environmental stimuli and to represent that information in working memory. However, the relationship between abnormal neurocognition and dysfunction in specific brain regions in ADHD remains unclear. Method: The authors used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify brain regions with abnormal hemodynamic activity during processing of target and novelty oddball stimuli that engage attention. Forty-six boys 11-18 years of age participated in the study, including 23 diagnosed as having ADHD with hyperactivity and impulsivity (combined type) and 23 demographically matched control subjects. Event-related fMRI data were collected while participants performed a three-stimulus auditory oddball task. Hemodynamic activity was compared between ADHD participants and control subjects in brain regions previously linked to P3 ERPs. Results: Participants with ADHD showed deficits in brain activity elicited by infrequent attentionally engaging stimuli in regions associated with attentional orienting and working-memory cognitive processes. These deficits co-occurred with highly variable and slow task performance. Conclusions: This study links ADHD attentional orienting and working-memory deficits to dysfunction in specific cortical brain regions. The results indicate that ADHD pathophysiology impairs brain systems that are important for allocating attention and using cognitive representations to guide cognition and behavior. Attention-related neural dysfunction is thus an important factor to consider in neurobiological theories of ADHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1737-1749
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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