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This article is the author’s final published version in Frontiers in Psychiatry, Volume 12, November 2021, Article number 725788.

The published version is available at Copyright © Amen, Henderson and Newberg.


Background: The diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) relies on history and observation, as no reliable biomarkers have been identified. In this study, we compared a large single diagnosis group of patients with ADHD (combined, inattentive, and hyperactive) to healthy controls using brain perfusion single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging to determine specific brain regions which could serve as potential biomarkers to reliably distinguish ADHD. Methods: In a retrospective analysis, subjects (n = 1,135) were obtained from a large multisite psychiatric database, where resting state (baseline) and on-task SPECT scans were obtained. Only baseline scans were analyzed in the present study. Subjects were separated into two groups - Group 1 (n = 1,006) was composed of patients who only met criteria for ADHD with no comorbid diagnoses, while a control group (n = 129) composed of individuals who did not meet criteria for any psychiatric diagnosis, brain injury, or substance use served as a non-matched control. SPECT regions of interests (ROIs) and visual readings were analyzed using binary logistic regression. Predicted probabilities from this analysis were inputted into a Receiver Operating Characteristic analysis to identify sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy. Results: The baseline ROIs and visual readings show significant separations from healthy controls. Sensitivity of the visual reads was 100% while specificity was >97%. The sensitivity and specificity of the post-hoc ROI analysis were both 100%. Decreased perfusion was primarily seen in the orbitofrontal cortices, anterior cingulate gyri, areas of the prefrontal cortices, basal ganglia, and temporal lobes. In addition, ROI analysis revealed some unexpected areas with predictive value in distinguishing ADHD, such as cerebellar subregions and portions of the temporal lobes. Conclusions: Brain perfusion SPECT distinguishes adult ADHD patients without comorbidities from healthy controls. Areas which were highly significantly different from control and thus may serve as biomarkers in baseline SPECT scans included: medial anterior prefrontal cortex, left anterior temporal lobe, and right insular cortex. Future studies of these potential biomarkers in ADHD patients with comorbidities are warranted.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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