Background: Although abnormalities in reward processing have been proposed to underlie attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), this link has not been tested explicitly with neural probes.
Methods: This hypothesis was tested by using fMRI to compare neural activity within the striatum in individuals with ADHD and healthy controls during a reward-anticipation task that has been shown previously to produce reliable increases in ventral striatum activity in healthy adults and healthy adolescents. Eleven adolescents with ADHD (5 off medication and 6 medication-naïve) and 11 healthy controls (ages 12-17 y) were included. Groups were matched for age, gender, and intelligence quotient.
Results: We found reduced ventral striatal activation in adolescents with ADHD during reward anticipation, relative to healthy controls. Moreover, ventral striatal activation was negatively correlated with parent-rated hyperactive/impulsive symptoms across the entire sample.
Conclusions: These findings provide neural evidence that symptoms of ADHD, and impulsivity or hyperactivity in particular, may involve diminished reward anticipation, in addition to commonly observed executive dysfunction.