March 25, 2017

Kids with ADHD have some smaller than usual brain regions

16 February 2017, 03:52 | Winifred Adams

The brains of ADHD sufferers had a slightly smaller overall volume, and five of the seven regions-including the amygdala, which is involved in emotional responses-were smaller in people with the condition, the researchers found. This is the largest such study for ADHD to date, Radboud UMC announced on its website.

The research was conducted by ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta Analysis), an ADHD working group.

The researchers reviewed one brain scan per ADHD patient and were surprised to find that there was no effect from medications.

The areas of the brain linked to ADHD are the caudate nucleus, putamen, pallidum, hippocampus, thalamus, amygdala and nucleus accumbems.

The researchers looked at the brain volume of 1,713 people with ADHD and 1,529 people with out ADHD aged between 4 and 63 years.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and was published online Wednesday in the journal, Lancet Psychiatry. The other half were control subjects.

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The study, the largest review of ADHD patients' brain scans ever conducted, might also provide clues for developing new treatments. "So because this study was orders of magnitude higher in terms of participants, and because it involved sampling broadly and internationally, it givers us more confidence". The differences were more prominent in children but continued into adulthood.

Lead researcher Martine Hoogman told Trouw that the study suggests children with ADHD have brains that mature later: 'I hope that above all the study removes stigmatisation, ' she told the paper.

Further, these differences were most prominent in the brains of children with ADHD, and less obvious in adults with the disorder, a finding that might be important in challenging beliefs that ADHD is a label for hard children or the result of poor parenting, the researchers said.

"To have a solid understanding that ADHD really does originate from brain systems and that it causes alterations in the way the brain is structured and functions, is important information for reducing stigma", said Posner, who co-authored an accompanying commentary.

By being able to point to measurable differences in the brains of those with ADHD, the ENGIMA scientists hope their study will also help the general public better understand the disorder.

The finding that children with ADHD had smaller brain structures fits with a "delayed peak volume" theory that ADHD is associated with an "altered velocity of cortical development", the authors said.

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