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Distinct Neural Profiles of Frontoparietal Networks in Boys with ADHD and Boys with Persistent Depressive Disorder


Working memory deficits are common in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression—two common neurodevelopmental disorders with overlapping cognitive profiles but distinct clinical presentation. Multivariate techniques have previously been utilized to understand working memory processes in functional brain networks in healthy adults but have not yet been applied to investigate how working memory processes within the same networks differ within typical and atypical developing populations. We used multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to identify whether brain networks discriminated between spatial versus verbal working memory processes in ADHD and Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD). Thirty-six male clinical participants and 19 typically developing (TD) boys participated in a fMRI scan while completing a verbal and a spatial working memory task. Within a priori functional brain networks (frontoparietal, default mode, salience), the TD group demonstrated differential response patterns to verbal and spatial working memory. The PDD group showed weaker differentiation than TD, with lower classification accuracies observed in primarily the left frontoparietal network. The neural profiles of the ADHD and PDD differed specifically in the SN where the ADHD group’s neural profile suggests significantly less specificity in neural representations of spatial and verbal working memory. We highlight within-group classification as an innovative tool for understanding the neural mechanisms of how cognitive processes may deviate in clinical disorders, an important intermediary step towards improving translational psychiatry.

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This research was conducted within the Developmental Imaging research group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Academic Child Psychiatry Unit, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne. Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria. It was supported by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Royal Children’s Hospital, The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne, and the Victorian Government’s Operational Infrastructure Support Program. TS was supported by a NHMRC Career Development Award. DY was supported by the National Institutes of Health NRSA Fellowship F31-DA042574. The authors thank all children and families who participated in this research. They also thank Dr. Lauren Richmond and Dr. Alec Solway for helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript. DY and VV thank the Kavli Foundation for enabling participation in their Summer School in Cognitive Neuroscience (2016, Santa Barbara, CA), where this collaboration originated.


Dr. Yee, Dr. Vilgis, Dr. Silk, and Dr. Vance all report no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Debbie Yee.

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Vilgis, V., Yee, D., Silk, T.J. et al. Distinct Neural Profiles of Frontoparietal Networks in Boys with ADHD and Boys with Persistent Depressive Disorder. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci (2022).

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  • fMRI
  • Multivariate pattern analysis
  • Working memory
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression
  • Children