Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms of Social Heterogeneity in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Thesis

(2017). Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms of Social Heterogeneity in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder . 10.25148/etd.FIDC001948

thesis or dissertation chair


  • MacNamara, Kailey


  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common child-onset neurodevelopment disorders, affecting 5% of children in the United States (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Treatment matching in ADHD is difficult and unsatisfactory; the same general treatment algorithm is recommended for all children. It is therefore important to consider the development of specialized treatment programs based on a variety of behavioral and neurological biomarkers. Unfortunately, due to its multi-faceted classification, the heterogeneity of this behavioral disorder is under-investigated (Costa Dias et al., 2015). Scientific research in this area is especially limited as the severity of ADHD goes undiagnosed, children tend to have difficulties remaining still in MRI scanners, and the hyperactivity-impulsivity that is associated with ADHD may cause further challenges when trying to remain motionless in the scanner. Furthermore, tasks such as Facial Emotion Perception Task (FEPT) and Theory of Mind (ToM) have not been used to analyze social and behavioral deficits in children with ADHD. More research needs to be allocated to helping uncover the neural substrates underlying the inattention and hyperactivity traits of this disorder. For this reason, we acquired functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from five children with ADHD performing the FEPT and ToM tasks. The results showed the children have an easier and quick time correctly identifying happy emotional states, as compared to the fearful, angry, and neutral conditions. Results from the FEPT task also revealed that the participants were thinking and reasoning more (i.e., taking longer to deduce an ending) when identifying emotions than identifying animals. The ToM task showed that the default mode network (DMN) may not be fully suppressed when the children are choosing the correct cartoon ending, and therefore the children may be having lapses in attention. These findings may assist the current hypothesis that the default mode network has reduced network homogeneity in people with ADHD. Overall, the findings presented in this thesis provide a good diving board into discovering the reason(s) for the social cognition and emotion recognition impairments associated with ADHD, but further research is needed in order to one day pinpoint and ultimately correct the regions(s) of dysfunction.

publication date

  • June 30, 2017


  • adhd
  • animals
  • attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • default mode network
  • emotion perception
  • faces
  • fmri
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • story cartoons

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)