Updated 04 July 2014

New MRI scans for iron levels in ADHD kids

Doctors and parents may soon be better able to make informed decisions about medication for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.


A newer MRI method can detect low iron levels in the brains of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The method could help doctors and parents make better informed decisions about medication, a new study says.

Psychostimulant drugs used to treat ADHD affect levels of the brain chemical dopamine.

Study author, Dr Vitria Adisetiyo, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said because iron was required to process dopamine, using the MRI scanner to assess iron levels in the brain could provide a non-invasive, indirect measure of the chemical.

Improved diagnosis and treatment

Adisetiyo said if these findings were confirmed in larger studies, the technique might help improve ADHD diagnosis and treatment.

The method might allow researchers to measure dopamine levels without injecting the patient with a substance that enhances imaging, she said.

ADHD symptoms include hyperactivity and difficulty staying focused, paying attention and controlling behaviour.

The American psychiatric association reports that between 3 - 7% of school-age children are affected by ADHD.

More information

Everything you need to know about ADHD

(Photo of MRI scanner by Shutterstock

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Dr. Shabeer Ahmed Jeeva is a specialist psychiatrist who has been practicing child and adult psychiatry for 30 years. He has vast experience in treating ADHD, and is also an ADHD patient himself. Dr. Jeeva trained and practiced in Canada as a child and adult psychiatrist and had lived there for 25 years. He had attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland (1970-1976). His professional experience and accreditation includes: Psychiatric residency at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Child Psychiatry fellowship at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Diploma in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa (Canada), and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Canada. Visit his website at:

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