Tamara Vanderwal, M.D.
Fellow in Child & Adolescent ADHD
Linda C. Mayes, M.D.
F. Xavier Castellanos, M.D.
The use of movies to assay brain network dynamics in ADHD
For years, scientists, clinicians and parents have been making observations about temporal patterns in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For example, the errors made by children with ADHD during behavioral tasks fluctuate over periods of minutes, suggesting that the brain systems involved are capable of normal function, but just not of sustained normal function. Recent advances in neuroimaging have enabled researchers to identify a series of functional networks that exist in the brain during tasks and task-free rest. The most studied network in psychiatric research is called the default network (DN)—a group of regions that typically decrease activity during tasks and increase activity during times of rest or mind wandering. Research in ADHD has shown abnormal relationships between the DN and other networks that are needed for ongoing cognitive processes, as well as decreased connectivity within the DN itself. All of these studies have looked at network connections during task-free rest. What is not yet known is how the DN interacts with other networks in the brain when ongoing, dynamic shifts in inter-network function are required, such as in school. This project uses movies as functional MRI stimuli to assay brain patterns in children with ADHD. This unique approach enables us to assess both within and across-network relationships during dynamic, complex, audiovisual stimulation. We hypothesize that in ADHD, the DN functions abnormally under such conditions, and that using movies to study the dynamics of DN connectivity will enable us to contribute new information regarding the functional mechanisms of ADHD.