Paediatrics Publications

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Brain Structure and Function

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Background: Externalizing and internalizing behaviors contribute to clinical impairment in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Although associations between externalizing or internalizing behaviors and cortico-amygdalar connectivity have been found in clinical and non-clinical pediatric samples, no previous study has examined whether similar shared 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 (DWI) and parent-report Child Behavioral Checklist (CBCL) data available, were analyzed (total n = 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 towards an absence of a shared linear relationship between internalizing or externalizing behaviors and cortico-amygdalar connectivity properties across a transdiagnostic sample of children with different primary NDD diagnoses and TDC. Different methodological approaches, including incorporation of multi-dimensional behavioral data (e.g., task-based fMRI) or clustering approaches may be needed to clarify complex brain-behavior relationships relevant to externalizing/internalizing behaviors in heterogeneous clinical NDD populations.