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Children with ADHD have some brain regions that are smaller than normal, finds study

Children with ADHD have some brain regions that are smaller than normal, finds study

27 April | 0 Comments | By Rachael

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD is a brain disorder characterized by a continuing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that inhibits functioning or development. Although inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity are the main characteristics of ADHD, some people may experience problems with only one of the behaviors while others may experience both.

A study led by researchers from Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands has found a link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and delayed development of five brain regions.

The study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in The Lancet Psychiatry in April 2017, is the largest analysis of ADHD patients’ brain scans ever undertaken.

The study measured differences in the brain structure of 3,242 people, comprising 1,713 people with ADHD and 1,529 people without who were aged between four and 63 years. They underwent MRI scans to measure overall brain volume and the size of seven brain regions that were considered to be linked to ADHD. The researchers also investigated if participants with ADHD had ever taken stimulant drugs such as Ritalin.

It was found that overall brain volume and five of the regional volumes, including the regions controlling emotions, voluntary movement and understanding, were smaller in the case of children with ADHD. No noticeable difference was found in the case of adults. It was further found that the differences in brain volumes of people with ADHD were not affected by stimulant drugs.

Study may offer better understanding of ADHD and related treatments

Martine Hoogman, postdoctoral researcher at Radboud University and lead author of the study, states that if specific regions of the brain that are involved in ADHD are known, they can be possibly targeted with medication. Hoogman added that the findings support earlier studies hypothesizing that brains of people with ADHD develop more slowly. However, by the time children become adults, those differences are not significant anymore.

The authors of the study are hopeful that the findings will help in reducing the stigma attached to ADHD – that it is a characteristic of problematic children or an outcome of poor parenting. Jonathan Posner, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, supports the view that the study will generate more empathy for children with ADHD. It will also further understanding of ADHD as a disease that alters the brain’s structure and its functions.

Limitations of the findings necessitate further research

Although the study participants comprised a large number of people of all ages, the way it is designed limits the determination of ADHD development throughout a person’s lifetime. The changes in brain differences over time needs to be investigated by monitoring people with ADHD from childhood to adulthood via longitudinal studies.

Other experts note that the findings are interesting but there is insufficient information to establish an association between brain differences and behavioral problems observed in people with ADHD. Graham Murray, a lecturer in psychiatry at Cambridge University who was not involved in the study, mentions that lower brain volumes in several regions appear detrimental but it is always not so simple. Decreased brain matter can sometimes be favorable in case of teenagers whose intellectual capacity grows with time. Murray adds that brain is very adaptive and having lower volume does not necessarily impair a child’s ability to function well.

Best way to treat ADHD is with timely help

ADHD severely impacts the functioning and cognitive abilities of individuals and a combination of treatments are available to treat the condition. If you know someone who is showing symptoms of ADHD, contact the Arizona Mental Health Helpline for information about mental health treatment centers in Arizona that best suit the needs of those suffering. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-606-7791 or chat online with our representatives to avail the facilities of one of the best mental health disorder treatment centers in Arizona.