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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


MERCADILLO, Roberto E. et al. Functional magnetic resonance imaging in the clinical diagnostic of the attention deficit disorder and the impulsive aggression in children: An exploratory proposal. Salud Ment [online]. 2011, vol.34, n.1, pp.11-20. ISSN 0185-3325.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) refers to a neurobehavioral condition commonly initiated in childhood. Its clinical diagnosis involves poor attention, distractibility, difficulties to inhibit motor behaviors and cognitive impulsivity. It is suggested that ADD is classified in two general types correlated with different neurocognitive qualities. One is manifested in executive frontal dysfunctions (ADD). In the other type dominates hyperactivity/ impulsivity (ADHD) and it is associated with deficiencies in working memory and alterations in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Results obtained by using electroencephalography, event-related potential paradigms and voxel brain morphometry suggest anomalies in the brain structure and function correlated with ADD, particularly in the frontal, parietal and temporal cortices, in addition to regions involved in the fronto-estriatal connections. On the other hand, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) constitutes a technique to obtain brain images which can be interpreted as regions and networks of neural activity elicited during the performance of a cognitive process. Based on the information that the ADD patients are susceptible to cognitive interferences, some researches have applied the classical and the counting versions of the Stroop task paradigms in fMRI. In comparison with control subjects, adult patients show alack of neural activation in the anterior cingulated cortex. Nevertheless, results in children are more controversial and attribute neurobiological and social factors in the ADD etiology. The anterior cingulated cortex and prefrontal region of the human brain conform the execution system of attention and their function is essential for emotional processes. The neurocognitive relation between attention and emotion involves the influence of the affective system in the alert and execution systems of attention through reciprocal connections between limbic and frontal regions, which permit a mnemonic and affective valuation of the attended environment. Understanding the relations between attention and emotion is essential in basic and clinical approaches, due to the co-morbidity of ADD with some emotional disorders, such as the oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety and impulsive aggression, the last one elicited by uncontrolled experiences of anger. In this sense, some studies describe that the metabolic brain activity correlated with the experience of anger is manifested in the frontal, anterior cingulated and insular cortices and the temporal pole. Clinical situations require individualized decisions on the immediate and emergent treatment of one case. Furthermore, when the clinical case refers to a behavioral disorder probably related with neurobiological dysfunctions, a comparison of test with control subjects is necessary. In this sense, the present work constitutes an fMRI study designed to evaluate neurological functional alterations in a child patient diagnosed with ADHD, with persistent severe impulsive aggression behaviors that required a swift evaluation to enhance the diagnosis and treatment proposed by other clinical techniques. Besides the patient, three infant participants were evaluated. One of them was diagnosed with ADD but did not manifest aggressive or impulsive behaviors and was not under any pharmacological treatment. The other two healthy children had no neurological and psychiatric disorders history. All the participants presented similar intellectual coefficient and performed the same cognitive and emotional tests. In the case of the patient, test were applied in two conditions: under the proposed pharmacological treatment and without medication. The attention test consisted in a version of the counting Stroop task in Spanish language, presented in a block design through the E-Prime software. Subjects practiced the task in a personal computer before the functional image acquisition and were trained to answer by using a bottom response system that will be used in the scanner. For the emotional-anger paradigm, children were interviewed about scenes and situations of their personal experience which elicited anger and calm. Situations were ordered and planned in a block design to be executed in the magnetic resonance instrument. During the functional images acquisition children listened to the situations conducted by imaginery techniques. Functional images were acquired in a 1.5 T G.E. instrument in the Magnetic Resonance Unit of the Hospital Ángeles Metropolitano in Mexico City. Data were analyzed by using the SPM 5 software applying a contrast using FWE with p < 0.05. Brain coordinates obtained in SPM 5 were converted to the Talairach Deamond system in order to obtain the Brodmann areas related to those coordinates. During the performance of the counting Stroop task, the patient with ADHD under medication manifested activation in frontal areas, but not during the medication suspension trial. Frontal activity identified in this patient in the treatment trial was similar to that identified in the unaggressive ADD patient. In both cases, ADHD without medication and ADD, a lack of activity was identified in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Nevertheless, activation in ACC, in parietal and temporal regions was present in the aggressive patient under treatment but not in the suspension condition. These results may suggest that an inadequate attention process distort the environment stimuli, which is necessary for the subject's correct affective evaluation of the situation. During the experience of anger, the patient under treatment manifested activity in the parahippocampal region, as well as in the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices. Results discussed in this work agree with those previously reported and offer cues to complement the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD and their relations with emotional disorders. Particularly, the design used here could be used for the analysis and evaluation of some pharmacological and behavioral treatments clinically applied in ADD. In addition, it helps to understand the participation of multipotential brain regions and neural networks involved in several cognitive processes, such as attention, working memory and emotion. Finally, we proposed some ideas to interpret these results using fMRI and ADD: 1. It is necessary a consensual and standard integration of neuropsychological tests which identify different cognitive qualities of ADD. 2. The selection of children samples to study the neurobiology of ADD must include several variables associated with its etiology, such as parental relations, social and scholar environments. 3. Experimental paradigms could be designed to be performed using different neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI or event-related potential. Thus, the results of the same test can be used to complement different approaches. 4. Results obtained by fMRI must not be understood in a phrenologycal and deterministic approach, but as brain region activations indicating dynamic neural networks.

Palabras llave : Attention; emotion; Stroop task; impulsive aggression; magnetic resonance imaging.

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