Reward circuit connectivity relates to delay discounting in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Taciana G. Costa Dias, Vanessa B. Wilson, Deepti R. Bathula, Swathi P. Iyer, Kathryn L. Mills, Bria L. Thurlow, Corinne A. Stevens, Erica D. Musser, Samuel D. Carpenter, David S. Grayson, Suzanne H. Mitchell, Joel T. Nigg, Damien A. Fair

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113 Scopus citations


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent psychiatric disorder that has poor long-term outcomes and remains a major public health concern. Recent theories have proposed that ADHD arises from alterations in multiple neural pathways. Alterations in reward circuits are hypothesized as one core dysfunction, leading to altered processing of anticipated rewards. The nucleus accumbens (NAcc) is particularly important for reward processes; task-based fMRI studies have found atypical activation of this region while the participants performed a reward task. Understanding how reward circuits are involved with ADHD may be further enhanced by considering how the NAcc interacts with other brain regions. Here we used the technique of resting-state functional connectivity MRI (rs-fcMRI) to examine the alterations in the NAcc interactions and how they relate to impulsive decision making in ADHD. Using rs-fcMRI, this study: examined differences in functional connectivity of the NAcc between children with ADHD and control children; correlated the functional connectivity of NAcc with impulsivity, as measured by a delay discounting task; and combined these two initial segments to identify the atypical NAcc connections that were associated with impulsive decision making in ADHD. We found that functional connectivity of NAcc was atypical in children with ADHD and the ADHD-related increased connectivity between NAcc and the prefrontal cortex was associated with greater impulsivity (steeper delayed-reward discounting). These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that atypical signaling of the NAcc to the prefrontal cortex in ADHD may lead to excessive approach and failure in estimating future consequences; thus, leading to impulsive behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by K99/R00 MH091238 (Fair), R01 MH096773 (Fair), R01 MH086654 (Nigg), Oregon and Translational Research Institute (Fair), Medical Research Foundation (Fair, Costa Dias). Support from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) through Oregon and Translational Research Institute (Costa Dias), grant number UL1 RR024140, also made this research possible. The funding sources had no further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Delay discounting
  • FMRI
  • Functional connectivity
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Reward


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