Disorder-specific functional abnormalities during temporal discounting in youth with Attention Deficit hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism and comorbid ADHD and Autism.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are often comorbid and share cognitive abnormalities in temporal foresight. A key question is whether shared cognitive phenotypes are based on common or different underlying pathophysiologies and whether comorbid patients have additive neurofunctional deficits, resemble one of the disorders or have a different pathophysiology. We compared age- and IQ-matched boys with non-comorbid ADHD (18), non-comorbid ASD (15), comorbid ADHD and ASD (13) and healthy controls (18) using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a temporal discounting task. Only the ASD and the comorbid groups discounted delayed rewards more steeply. The fMRI data showed both shared and disorder-specific abnormalities in the three groups relative to controls in their brain-behaviour associations. The comorbid group showed both unique and more severe brain-discounting associations than controls and the non-comorbid patient groups in temporal discounting areas of ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum and anterior cingulate, suggesting that comorbidity is neither an endophenocopy of the two pure disorders nor an additive pathology.