Opposing theories of striatal hyper- and hypodopaminergic functioning have been suggested in the pathophysiology of externalizing behavior disorders. To test these competing theories, the authors used functional MRI to evaluate neural activity during a simple reward task in 12- to 16-year-old boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or conduct disorder (n = 19) and in controls with no psychiatric condition (n = 11). The task proceeded in blocks during which participants received either (a) monetary incentives for correct responses or (b) no rewards for correct responses. Controls exhibited striatal activation only during reward, shifting to anterior cingulate activation during nonreward. In contrast, externalizing adolescents exhibited striatal activation during both reward and nonreward. Externalizing psychopathology appears to be characterized by deficits in processing the omission of predicted reward, which may render behaviors that are acquired through environmental contingencies difficult to extinguish when those contingencies change.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry