Executive Function Brain Network Activation Predicts Driving Hazard Detection in ADHD

Academic Article


  • Drivers with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at increased risk of experiencing driving difficulties. An important aspect of driving safety and skill involves hazard detection. This functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the neural responses associated with driving hazard detection in drivers with ASD, ADHD, and typically developing (TD) drivers. Forty participants (12 ASD, 15 ADHD, 13 TD) ages 16–30 years completed a driving simulator task in which they encountered social and nonsocial hazards; reaction time (RT) for responding to hazards was measured. Participants then completed a similar hazard detection task in the MRI scanner so that neural response to hazards could be measured. Activation of regions of interest considered part of the executive function (EF) and theory of mind (ToM) networks were examined and related to driving simulator behavior. Results showed that stronger activation of the EF network during social hazard processing, including the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex, was associated with faster RT to social hazards among drivers with ADHD, but not among drivers with ASD. This provides the first evidence of a relationship between EF network brain activation and driving skills in ADHD and suggests that alterations in this network may underlie driving behavior. In comparison, the current study did not observe a relationship between ToM network activation and RT to social hazards in any group. This study lays the groundwork for relating neural activation to driving behavior among individuals with NDDs.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bednarz HM; Stavrinos D; Svancara AM; Sherrod GM; McManus B; Deshpande HD; Kana RK
  • Start Page

  • 251
  • End Page

  • 267
  • Volume

  • 35
  • Issue

  • 2