Working memory in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a lack of specialization of brain function

Catherine Fassbender, Julie B Schweitzer, Carlos R. Cortes, Malle A. Tagamets, T. Andrew Windsor, Gloria M. Reeves, Rao Gullapalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Working memory impairments are frequent in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and create problems along numerous functional dimensions. The present study utilized the Visual Serial Addition Task (VSAT) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore working memory processes in thirteen typically developing (TD) control and thirteen children with ADHD, Combined type. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to examine both main effects and interactions. Working memory-specific activity was found in TD children in the bilateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast the within-group map in ADHD did not reveal any working-memory specific regions. Main effects of condition suggested that the right middle frontal gyrus (BA6) and the right precuneus were engaged by both groups during working memory processing. Group differences were driven by significantly greater, non-working memory-specific, activation in the ADHD relative to TD group in the bilateral insula extending into basal ganglia and the medial prefrontal cortex. A region of interest analysis revealed a region in left middle frontal gyrus that was more active during working memory in TD controls. Thus, only the TD group appeared to display working memory-modulated brain activation. In conclusion, children with ADHD demonstrated reduced working memory task specific brain activation in comparison to their peers. These data suggest inefficiency in functional recruitment by individuals with ADHD represented by a poor match between task demands and appropriate levels of brain activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27240
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 10 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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