February 25, 2021

Cortico-amygdalar connectivity and externalizing/internalizing behavior in children with neurodevelopmental disorders

Background: Externalizing and internalizing behaviors are common and contribute to impairment in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Associations between externalizing or internalizing behaviors and cortico-amygdalar connectivity have been found in children with and without clinically significant internalizing/externalizing behaviors. This study examined whether such associations are present across children with different NDDs. Methods: Multi-modal neuroimaging and behavioral data from the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network were used. POND participants aged 6-18 years with a primary diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as typically developing children (TDC) with T1-weighted, resting-state fMRI or diffusion weighted imaging and parent-report Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) data available, were analyzed (n range=157-346). Associations between externalizing or internalizing behavior and cortico-amygdalar structural and functional connectivity indices were examined using linear regressions, controlling for age, gender, and image-modality specific covariates. Behavior-by-diagnosis interaction effects were also examined. Results: No significant linear associations (or diagnosis-by-behavior interaction effects) were found between CBCL-measured externalizing or internalizing behaviors and any of the connectivity indices examined. Post-hoc bootstrapping analyses indicated stability and reliability of these null results. Conclusions: The current study provides evidence in favour of the absence of a shared linear relationship between internalizing or externalizing behaviors and cortico-amygdalar connectivity properties across a transdiagnostic sample of children with various NDDs and TDC. Detecting shared brain-behavior relationships in children with NDDs may benefit from the use of different methodological approaches, including incorporation of multi-dimensional behavioral data (i.e. behavioral assessments, neurocognitive tasks, task-based fMRI) or clustering approaches to delineate whether subgroups of individuals with different brain-behavior profiles are present within heterogeneous cross-disorder samples.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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