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ADHD

28 November 2011

Functional brain pathways disrupted in kids with ADHD

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have identified abnormalities in the brains of children with (ADHD) that may serve as a biomarker for the disorder.

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Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers have identified abnormalities in the brains of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that may serve as a biomarker for the disorder, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders, affecting an estimated five to eight percent of school-aged children. Symptoms, which may continue into adulthood, include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity behaviours that are out of the normal range for a child's age and development.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is no single test capable of diagnosing a child with the disorder. As a result, difficult children are often incorrectly labelled with ADHD while other children with the disorder remain undiagnosed.

Reliable biomarker

"Diagnosing ADHD is very difficult because of its wide variety of behavioural symptoms," said lead researcher Xiaobo Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Establishing a reliable imaging biomarker of ADHD would be a major contribution to the field."

For the study, Dr Li and colleagues performed fMRI on 18 typically developing children and 18 children diagnosed with ADHD (age range 9 to 15 years).

While undergoing fMRI, the children engaged in a test of sustained attention in which they were shown a set of three numbers and then asked whether subsequent groups of numbers matched the original set.

For each participant, fMRI produced a brain activation map that revealed which regions of the brain became activated while the child performed the task. The researchers then compared the brain activation maps of the two groups.

Compared to the normal control group, the children with ADHD showed abnormal functional activity in several regions of the brain involved in the processing of visual attention information.

Communication disrupted

The researchers also found that communication among the brain regions within this visual attention-processing pathway was disrupted in the children with ADHD.

"What this tells us is that children with ADHD are using partially different functional brain pathways to process this information, which may be caused by impaired white matter pathways involved in visual attention information processing," Dr Li said.

Dr Li said much of the research conducted on ADHD has focused on the impulsivity component of the disorder.

"Inattention is an equally important component of this disorder," she said, "and our findings contribute to understanding the pathology of inattentiveness in ADHD."

(EurekAlert, November 2011)

 

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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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