Monday, 29 May, 2017

ADHD Might Be A Brain Disorder

Primary pupils in group work in a small village school in southern Laos ADHD is a brain disorder, not a label for poor parenting, say scientists
Sammy Stanley | 17 February, 2017, 00:22

New study suggests that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have different brain structure from those people without ADHD.

For the latest study, Hoogman and a team analysed the MRI scans of people aged four to 63, suffering from ADHD or not.

The results showed that the brains of participants with ADHD were smaller overall, and that volumes of five of the seven regions were also smaller: the caudate nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and hippocampus.

"The fact that the amygdala was a particular region where they saw the largest effect, or the biggest difference between patients and non-patients, speaks to the importance of emotional symptoms in ADHD", says Dr. Jonathan Posner, associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

The results of the study, which involved 1,713 people with ADHD and 1,529 people without the condition, were published in The Lancet Psychiatry. It is the work of the ENIGMA Consortium, an worldwide multidisciplinary group that is investigating genetic and brain-imaging differences in psychiatric disorders. Researchers measured overall brain volume, but also the size of seven specific brain regions believed to be associated with the disorder.

"These differences are very small - in the range of a few percent - so the unprecedented size of our study was crucial to help identify these", Hoogman said. The team says that there is now a need for longitudinal studies that follow children with ADHD into adulthood and track brain changes over time.

"By the time they become adults, the differences in their brains are not significant anymore", she said.

The differences between the two types of brain are not monumental however, according to the study's lead author, Martine Hoogman.

After reviewing one scan per person, scientists found no effect from ADHD medications.

Hoogman points to other conditions where brain size differences are commonplace, such as major depressive disorder (MDD).

Given the differences in brain structure they discovered, Hoogman and colleagues suggest that ADHD should be treated like a brain disorder, and not just some label for poor parenting or hard children. Evidence has been revealed in scans that show structural differences in the brains of sufferers. "So because this study was orders of magnitude higher in terms of participants, and because it involved sampling broadly and internationally, it gives us more confidence". There was no difference between people who were taking ADHD medication and those who weren't.

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