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BACKGROUND: Impairing repetitive behaviors are one of the core diagnostic symptoms in autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but they also manifest in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Although the dorsal striatal circuit has been implicated in repetitive behaviors, extensive heterogeneity in and cross-diagnostic manifestations of these behaviors have suggested phenotypic and likely neurobiological heterogeneity across neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). METHODS: Intrinsic dorsal striatal functional connectivity was examined in 3 NDDs (autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and typically developing control participants in a large single-cohort sample (N = 412). To learn how diagnostic labels and overlapping behaviors manifest in dorsal striatal functional connectivity measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging, the main and interaction effects of diagnosis and behavior were examined in 8 models (2 seed functional connectivity [caudate and putamen] × 4 sub-behavioral domains [sameness/ritualistic, self-injury, stereotypy, and compulsions]). RESULTS: The obsessive-compulsive disorder group demonstrated distinctive patterns in visual and visuomotor coordination regions compared with the other diagnostic groups. Lower-order repetitive behaviors (self-injury and stereotypy) manifesting across all participants were implicated in regions involved in motor and cognitive control, although the findings did not survive effects of multiple comparisons, suggesting heterogeneity in these behavioral domains. An interaction between self-injurious behavior and an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis were observed on caudate-cerebellum functional connectivity. CONCLUSIONS: These findings confirmed high heterogeneity and overlapping behavioral manifestations in NDDs and their complex underlying neural mechanisms. A call for diagnosis-free symptom measures that can capture not only observable symptoms and severity across NDDs but also the underlying functions and motivations of such behaviors across diagnoses is needed.

Original publication




Journal article


Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging

Publication Date





387 - 397


ADHD, Autism, Dorsal striatal functional connectivity, NDD, OCD, Repetitive behavior, Child, Humans, Adolescent, Brain Mapping, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cognition, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Neurodevelopmental Disorders