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Reinforcement-related cognitive processes, such as reward processing, impulsiveness and emotional processing are critical components of externalising and internalising behaviours. It is unclear to what extent each of these processes contributes to individual behavioural symptoms, how their neural substrates give rise to distinct behavioural outcomes, and if neural profiles across different reinforcement-related processes might differentiate individual behaviours. We created a statistical framework that enabled us to directly compare functional brain activation during reward anticipation, motor inhibition and viewing of emotional faces in the European IMAGEN cohort of 2000 14-year-old adolescents. We observe significant correlations and modulation of reward anticipation and motor inhibition networks in hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention and conduct symptoms, and describe neural signatures across neuroimaging tasks that differentiate these behaviours. We thus characterise shared and distinct functional brain activation patterns that underlie different externalising symptoms and identify neural stratification markers, while accounting for clinically observed co-morbidity.

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