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Neural Basis of Impaired Emotion Recognition in Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Published:November 28, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2020.11.013

      Abstract

      Background

      Deficits in emotion recognition have been repeatedly documented in patients diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but their neural basis is unknown so far.

      Methods

      In the current study, adult patients with ADHD (n = 44) and healthy control subjects (n = 43) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during explicit emotion recognition of stimuli expressing affective information in face, voice, or face–voice combinations. The employed experimental paradigm allowed us to delineate areas for processing audiovisual information based on their functional activation profile, including the bilateral posterior superior temporal gyrus/middle temporal gyrus, amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, and precuneus, as well as the right posterior thalamus.

      Results

      As expected, unbiased hit rates for correct classification of the expressed emotions were lower in patients with ADHD than in healthy control subjects irrespective of the presented sensory modality. This deficit at a behavioral level was accompanied by lower activation in patients with ADHD versus healthy control subjects in the cortex adjacent to the right superior temporal gyrus/middle temporal gyrus and the right posterior thalamus, which represent key areas for processing socially relevant signals and their integration across modalities. A cortical region adjacent to the right posterior superior temporal gyrus was the only brain region that showed a significant correlation between brain activation and emotion identification performance.

      Conclusions

      Altogether, these results provide the first evidence for a potential neural substrate of the observed impairments in emotion recognition in adults with ADHD.

      Keywords

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