ADHD

Updated 13 June 2017

Is ADHD linked to traumatic brain injuries?

New research suggests there may be a reason why many people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury are also diagnosed with ADHD.

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A new study has found a “significant association” between adults who have suffered a traumatic brain injury at some point in their lives and who also have attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

The study, published today in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, supports research that found a similar association in children, said Dr. Gabriela Ilie, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow at St. Michael's Hospital.

The data used in the adult study was collected by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Monitor, a continuous, cross-sectional telephone survey of almost 4,000 Ontario residents age 18 and older.

Traumatic brain injury was described as any injury to the head that resulted in loss of consciousness for at least five minutes or overnight hospitalisation. ADHD was measured by self-reported history of an ADHD diagnosis or the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale known as the ASRS.

Among adults with a history of TBI, 5.9 per cent reported having been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetime and another 6.6 per cent screened positive for ADHD when the self-report scale was conducted during the phone survey.

Recent clinical studies have suggested a relationship between ADHD and TBI that were experienced in childhood.

“This is not surprising because some of the most persistent consequences of TBI include ADHD-like symptoms, such as memory and attention impairment, deficits in executive functions such as planning and organisation, processing consonants and vowels and impulsive behaviour,” Dr. Ilie said.

Other studies have suggested that TBI may lead to psycho-neurological changes that facilitate ADHD or ADHD may increase the probability that a person may fall or have another accident that will result in a TBI.

“Therefore it may be useful to assess TBI history during screening and assessment of ADHD in the adult population,” Dr. Ilie said.

Dr. Robert Mann, senior scientist at CAMH and co-principal investigator said this latest study extends previous findings from the research team about the association between TBI and mental health and addiction issues.

“These new data suggest a significant association between ADHD and TBI,” Dr. Mann said. “We see that adults with TBI are more than twice as likely than those without to report symptoms of ADHD.”

Traumatic brain injuries are increasing in developed countries. The World Health Organization has predicted that by 2020 TBI will become the third largest contributor of disease and disability in the world, following heart disease and depressions.

Injuries from team sports such as hockey and football have been identified as the main source of TBI among youth, while falls and motor vehicle collisions are the main causes among adults.

This work was financially supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.

Additional funding was obtained from AUTO21, a member of the Networks of Centres of Excellence program that is administered and funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, in partnership with Industry Canada.

Read more:

The link between ADHD and other conditions

ADHD kids more likely to have bicycle accidents

Brain connections in ADHD kids develop more slowly

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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