Amygdala reactivity and ventromedial prefrontal cortex coupling in the processing of emotional face stimuli in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Tammo Viering*, Jilly Naaijen, Daan van Rooij, Christiane Thiel, Alexandra Philipsen, Andrea Dietrich, Barbara Franke, Jan Buitelaar, Pieter J. Hoekstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Impaired emotion recognition is common in individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and may, via deficient emotion self-regulation, relate to the frequently co-occurring affective and social problems. The present study used an emotional face-matching task and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate neural responses during the processing of angry and fearful faces and visuo-spatial control stimuli. Additionally, measures for emotion dysregulation, ADHD type, and age were investigated in relation to the behavioral and neural fMRI data. We utilized a sample of 61 adolescents/young adults with ADHD and 51 age-matched healthy controls (age range: 12-28 years). Participants with ADHD had higher emotion dysregulation scores than controls. They also reacted slower and less accurate in response to emotional but not visuo-spatial control stimuli. Neural response differences between emotional and visuo-spatial trials were significantly smaller in cases, particularly in the left amygdala. While coupling between the right amygdala and bilateral ventromedial prefrontal cortex was stronger for emotional than visuo-spatial stimuli in control subjects, levels of positive coupling between the trial types did not significantly differ in participants with ADHD. Neither emotion dysregulation scores, nor ADHD type or age were related to the behavioral and neural processing alterations during the emotional face-matching task. Results indicate that emotion recognition deficits in ADHD are particularly associated with lower amygdala activation to emotional stimuli and alterations in the functional connections of the amygdala to medial prefrontal areas. Emotion recognition deficits and associated neural alterations were unrelated to emotion dysregulation, ADHD type, or age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1895–1907
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Early online date13-Jun-2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2022


  • ADHD
  • Emotion recognition
  • Emotion dysregulation
  • Task fMRI
  • Amygdala
  • Prefrontal cortex

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