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Cingulate-Prefrontal Connectivity During Dynamic Cognitive Control Mediates Association Between p Factor and Adaptive Functioning in a Transdiagnostic Pediatric Sample

      Abstract

      Background

      Covariation among psychiatric symptoms is being actively pursued for transdiagnostic dimensions of psychopathology with predictive utility. A superordinate dimension, the p factor, reflects overall psychopathology burden and has support from genetic and neuroimaging correlates. However, the neurocognitive correlates that link an elevated p factor to maladaptive outcomes are unknown. We tested the mediating potential of dynamic adjustments in cognitive control rooted in functional connections anchored by the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in a transdiagnostic pediatric sample.

      Methods

      A multiple mediation model tested the association between the p factor (derived by principal component analysis of Child Behavior Checklist syndrome scales) and outcome measured with the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale-II in 89 children ages 8 to 13 years (23 female) with a variety of primary neurodevelopmental diagnoses who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a socioaffective Stroop-like task with eye gaze as distractor. Mediators included functional connectivity of frontoparietal- and salience network–affiliated dACC seeds during conflict adaptation.

      Results

      Higher p factor scores were related to worse adaptive functioning. This effect was partially mediated by conflict adaptation–dependent functional connectivity between the frontoparietal network–affiliated dACC seed and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Post hoc follow-up indicated that the p factor was related to all Vineland Adaptive Behaviors Scale-II domains; the association was strongest for socialization followed by daily living skills and then communication. Mediation results remained significant for socialization only.

      Conclusions

      Higher psychopathology burden was associated with worse adaptive functioning in early adolescence. This association was mediated by weaker dACC–dorsolateral prefrontal cortex functional connectivity underlying modulation of cognitive control in response to contextual contingencies. Our results contribute to the identification of transdiagnostic and developmentally relevant neurocognitive endophenotypes of psychopathology.

      Keywords

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