More evidence ADHD is brain disorder

Brain sections

They dubbed ADHD a "disorder or brain maturation delay" and said structural differences were greatest for children.

Scientists have finally revealed substantial evidence that indicates attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder.

The scientists studied the largest group to date of people of all ages with ADHD-1,713-and compared their brain scans to those without the disorder.

The study - which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - is published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The research was conducted by a worldwide consortium called ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta Analysis).

Kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often believed to simply be hard, and parents often feel they have failed their child in some way.

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The amygdala is affected on people with ADHD.

The symptoms can persist into adulthood.

"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", she said. Hoogman also added that similarities in brain volume differences were also observed in other psychiatric disorders, particularly major depressive disorder.

Previous studies have found links between differences in brain volume and ADHD, but they were limited by small sample sizes, making it hard to draw any firm conclusions. It included data on adults, adolescents, and kids living with ADHD. For example, some suggested that the basal ganglia - an area of the brain that controls emotion, cognition, and voluntary movement - is involved.

"Many people doubt not only the existence of the disorder, but also its biological basis", he says.

For the latest study, Hoogman and a team analysed the MRI scans of people aged four to 63, suffering from ADHD or not. The findings on the accumbens, amygdala and hippocampus were new. Those with ADHD showed delayed development in five brain regions.

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The researchers also took into account whether the participants were taking, or had ever taken, medication to treat ADHD (such as Ritalin), but this appeared to have no effect on the findings.

Another recent study in ADHD dates back to May previous year, and posits that children with the disorder have some symptoms also found with rare forms of cancer.

"If you know what region of the brain is involved in ADHD, you could possibly target that part with medication", said Martine Hoogman of Radboud University in the Netherlands, the study's lead author.

Hoogman said: "We hope that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is "just a label" for hard children, or caused by poor parenting". "This is definitely not the case, and we hope that this work will contribute to a better understanding of the disorder".

The most noteworthy findings relate to the smaller amygdala and hippocampus in patients with ADHD, as those regions haven't previously been conclusively linked to the disorder.

"Having less brain in several regions sounds bad but it's not as simple as that", he said, pointing out that decreased brain matter can sometimes be beneficial - like in teenagers, when the outer cortex of their developing brains becomes thinner as their intellectual capacity grows.

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