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Cortical thickness and inattention/hyperactivity symptoms in young children: a population-based study

  • S. E. Mous (a1) (a2), R. L. Muetzel (a1) (a2), H. El Marroun (a1) (a2), T. J. C. Polderman (a3), A. van der Lugt (a4), V. W. Jaddoe (a1) (a5) (a6), A. Hofman (a5), F. C. Verhulst (a2), H. Tiemeier (a2) (a5), D. Posthuma (a2) (a7) (a8) and T. White (a2) (a4)...



While many neuroimaging studies have investigated the neurobiological basis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), few have studied the neurobiology of attention problems in the general population. The ability to pay attention falls along a continuum within the population, with children with ADHD at one extreme of the spectrum and, therefore, a dimensional perspective of evaluating attention problems has an added value to the existing literature. Our goal was to investigate the relationship between cortical thickness and inattention and hyperactivity symptoms in a large population of young children.


This study is embedded within the Generation R Study and includes 6- to 8-year-old children (n = 444) with parent-reported attention and hyperactivity measures and high-resolution structural imaging data. We investigated the relationship between cortical thickness across the entire brain and the Child Behavior Checklist Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Problems score.


We found that greater attention problems and hyperactivity were associated with a thinner right and left postcentral gyrus. When correcting for potential confounding factors and multiple testing, these associations remained significant.


In a large, population-based sample we showed that young (6- to 8-year-old) children who show more attention problems and hyperactivity have a thinner cortex in the region of the right and left postcentral gyrus. The postcentral gyrus, being the primary somatosensory cortex, reaches its peak growth early in development. Therefore, the thinner cortex in this region may reflect either a deviation in cortical maturation or a failure to reach the same peak cortical thickness compared with children without attention or hyperactivity problems.


Corresponding author

* Address for correspondence: T. White, M.D., Ph.D., Erasmus MC-Sophia, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Room KP-2869, PO Box 2060, 3000 CB Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (Email:


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