Neurobiology of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder by means of neuroimaging techniques: convergences and divergences
In the clinical area, some symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also present in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Research has shown that there are alterations in brain circuits that have an impact upon specific cognitive and behavioural failures in each of these disorders. Yet, little research has been conducted on the brain correlates underlying both the similarities and the differences in the symptoms.
In this review, the structural and functional meta-analytical studies that have been carried out to date on ADHD and ASD have been analysed.
On the one hand, there are convergences in the attentional dorsal, executive functions, visual, somatomotor circuits and the default activation circuit. These similarities can account for the comorbid manifestations between the disorders, such as failure in the integration of information, fine motor control and specific attention processes.
On the other hand, specifically in ADHD, there is a deficit in the reward circuit and in the attentional ventral, which are systems involved in the measurement of the effects of reinforcement and monitoring of attention. In ASD, the circuits that are most strongly affected are those involved in social cognition and language processes.
In conclusion, there are neuronal correlates in both disorders that explain both the convergent and divergent clinical and behavioural manifestations.