APR 16, 2018 05:49 AM PDT
Do Children With ADHD Have Smaller Brains?
3 8 342

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological condition that usually shows up in childhood. Symptoms include poor impulse control, inattention, and difficulty staying on task.

A new study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shows that children who have it, also have reduced cortical volume in the regions of the brain that control behavior and impulsiveness. The study is the first to look at brain tissue volume and how it relates to ADHD.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins looked at brain scans (high-res MRI scans were used) of children aged 4 to 5 years old. There wasn't one specific area of the brain that showed lower tissue volume, but rather several, including the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes. In all of these areas, the primary function is cognition and behavior, including the predictability of some actions and the level of impulse control.

E. Mark Mahone, Ph.D., ABPP is the lead study author and a research scientist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. He explained the findings, saying what many parents have known for a while, "These findings confirm what parents have known for a while — even in very young children, ADHD is a real biological condition with pronounced physical and cognitive manifestations." Scanning children, even those who are neurotypical, can be challenging for the team at Kennedy Krieger figured out a way to get a better success rate. Dr. Mahone went on to state, "MRI research in children can be challenging—particularly so for young children with ADHD—as it requires them to lie still for periods up to 30-40 minutes. To address this challenge, we employed an individualized behavioral desensitization procedure using a mock scanner to help prepare the children for the scans, leading to a nearly 90 percent success rate."

The work is significant because ADHD remains a growing problem for parents, educators and healthcare professionals. The statistics on ADHD show that it's a problem for at least 1 in 20 people under the age of 18. Of that number, roughly two-thirds report that their symptoms persisted in adulthood. ADHD presents typically before the age of 7 years old, however, due to the negative stereotypes sometimes associated with it, many children are just labeled as behavioral problems or "difficult." Seeing what ADHD looks like in the brain, closer to onset, is critical to understanding the mechanisms behind the disorder.

The researchers plan to continue the study with this cohort of young children and follow through to adolescence and adulthood. They are hopeful that being able to see the disorder from its early stages through to the point where the brain is done developing, will reveal how it progresses and how age and maturity impact the symptoms. Treatments could also change as patients age because further phases of the study hope to look at how the brain of an adult ADHD patient differs from that on a young child right at first onset. Check out the video below for more information on ADHD and how it begins.

Sources: Kennedy Krieger Institute-Johns Hopkins, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cambridge University Press

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
MAY 11, 2018
Immunology
MAY 11, 2018
Successful Neural Stem Cell Therapy Without Immunosuppression
Neural stem cells designed to be identical to the host they were derived from are the newest hope for scientists in transplantation medicine, specifically
MAY 21, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
MAY 21, 2018
A Brain Map Made by Crowdsourcing
Princeton researchers turned to gamers when they needed to make sense of a huge amount of data.
MAY 30, 2018
Health & Medicine
MAY 30, 2018
Migraine Surgery Yields Results For Many Patients
Migraine headaches are a serious medical condition that can drastically reduce a patient's ability to work, participate in daily activities and functio
MAY 31, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
MAY 31, 2018
Newly Found Genes are Critical to Human Brain Development
While investigating how the human brain evolved, scientists found a region of the genome about which little is known; they have since connected it to autism.
JUN 14, 2018
Neuroscience
JUN 14, 2018
Why Silence is Necessary for Brain Health
It has been said that “silence is golden” and it’s definitely true, even in science. New research into how the brain processes informatio
JUL 06, 2018
Videos
JUL 06, 2018
The Impact of Junk Food on the Brain
Researchers have found that junk food stimulates neurons in our brains that cause a sense of reward.
Loading Comments...