Significance: It has been reported that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairment in the recognition of angry but not of happy facial expressions, and they show atypical cortical activation patterns in response to facial expressions. However, little is known about neural mechanisms underlying the impaired recognition of facial expressions in school-aged children with ADHD and the effects of acute medication on their processing of facial expressions.
Aim: We aimed to investigate the possibility that acute administration of methylphenidate (MPH) affects processing of facial expressions in ADHD children.
Approach: We measured the hemodynamic changes in the bilateral temporo-occipital areas of ADHD children observing the happy and angry facial expressions before and 1.5 h after MPH or placebo administration in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design study.
Results: We found that, regardless of medication, happy expressions induced increased oxyhemoglobin (oxy-Hb) responses in the right inferior occipital region but not in the superior temporal region. For angry expressions, oxy-Hb responses increased after MPH administration, but not after placebo administration, in the left inferior occipital area, whereas there was no significant activation before MPH administration.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that (1) ADHD children consistently recruit the right inferior occipital regions to process happy expressions and (2) MPH administration to ADHD children enhances cortical activation in the left inferior occipital regions when they process angry expressions.