OBJECTIVE: Sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT) is a cluster of symptoms associated with poor function in various domains of major life activities that may comprise a novel attention disorder distinct from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nevertheless, very little is known about the neural substrate of SCT in children. The present study aimed to examine associations between SCT symptoms and brain structure and function in school-aged children.
METHOD: We performed a cross-sectional MRI study in 178 children 8 to 12 years old from primary schools in Barcelona, Spain. Data were collected between January 2012 and March 2013. Parents completed the Sluggish Cognitive Tempo-Child Behavior Checklist (SCT-CBCL). Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging to assess regional brain volume, white matter integrity using diffusion tensor imaging, and functional connectivity in major neural networks.
RESULTS: SCT symptoms were associated with altered anatomy of the frontal lobe in the form of increased regional volume. The anomalously large cortical regions were less mature in terms of functional connectivity. Importantly, all the anatomical and functional anomalies identified remained significant after adjusting the analyses for ADHD symptom scores.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that SCT symptoms are associated with distinct features of brain structure and function that differ from the classical neural substrates described in ADHD.