Neurobiological Basis of Reinforcement-Based Decision-Making in Adults With ADHD Treated With Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate

I. Ivanov, J. H. Newcorn, B. Krone, X. Li, S. Duhoux, S. F. White, K. P. Schulz, A. C.V. Bédard, J. Pedraza, L. A. Adler, R. J. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The objective of this study was to examine changes in the activation of the brain reward system following treatment with lisdexamfetamine (LDX) vs. placebo (PL) as a function of clinical improvement in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Methods: Twenty adults with ADHD were included in a randomized cross-over study. Participants underwent two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, after receiving 3 to 5 weeks of treatment with both LDX and PL. During scanning, participants performed the passive-avoidance learning task to assess reward-related learning using computational variables (e.g., estimated value and prediction error). Pre-treatment to post-treatment symptom change was assessed via the ADHD Rating Scale (ADHD-RS). The imaging contrasts were Object Choose or Object Refuse during the object choice component of the task, modulated by expected value (reward vs. nonreward cue), and Reward vs. Punishment during feedback, modulated by prediction error (expected vs. actual outcome). To address the primary objective, we performed group-level mass univariate analyses between pre-treatment to post-treatment percent change of the ADHD-RS total scores and the four contrast images under the choice and feedback conditions, with significance set at a whole-brain voxel-wise threshold of p <.05 with family-wise error (FWE) correction and an extent (cluster) threshold of 50 contiguous voxels. Results: Improvement in ADHD symptoms was accompanied by significant increases of brain activation during the Object Refuse, Reward and Punishment contrasts in a widespread network including left caudate and putamen, and right orbitofrontal cortex (i.e., reward-related signaling) and left middle frontal, superior frontal, and precentral gyri (i.e., executive control). Conclusions: These findings are the first to show that the increase in responsiveness of systems engaged in reward processing with LDX treatment is positively related to symptom improvement. Results support the hypothesis that LDX treatment may restore balance to dysfunction (e.g., hypoactivation) within the brain reward circuitry in adults with ADHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1632-1633
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • ADHD
  • neuroimaging
  • psychostimulant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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