Medicine

ADHD a brain disorder, not result of bad parenting

ADHD a brain disorder, not result of bad parenting

A study has shown that ADHD sufferers have smaller brains than those without the condition. Out of these seven brain regions, five of them were found to be smaller in volume and underdeveloped in ADHD patients but not in people without the condition. Researchers measured overall brain volume, but also the size of seven specific brain regions believed to be associated with the disorder.

Researchers who pinpointed brain differences in people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) say their findings show the condition should be considered a brain disorder.

The first author, geneticist Martine Hoogman of Radboud University in the Netherlands, said the amygdala "is a structure that is not so well known to be implicated in ADHD".

The researchers studied MRIs of the brain to identify the regions possibly affected by ADHD, but Posner says it's not practical to use MRIs to diagnose the disorder-at least not yet.

In a statement, she expresses hope "that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is "just a label" for hard children or caused by poor parenting".

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry and is the largest review of ADHD patients' brain scans ever conducted.


"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.

Most often diagnosed in children, ADHD is blamed for severe and repeated bouts of inattention, hyperactivity or impulsiveness that can cause problems at school or home.

The study involved 1,713 people with ADHD and 1,529 without the condition, aged from 4 to 63 years old.

They found no difference between people who were taking or had taken ADHD drugs, and those who had never taken such medications - suggesting that the brain changes were not caused by psychostimulants. The largest difference was spotted in amygdala region responsible for emotion. These areas are primarily involved in processing emotions and shed new light on some of the non-thinking aspects of ADHD. That is, their brain development may be delayed compared with children who do not have ADHD, but it may catch up as they grow into adulthood.

Commenting on the study from an independent perspective, Jonathan Posner of Columbia University, who works in the field of ADHD science, described these findings as an "important contribution". He also calls for further studies to track brain differences in the development of ADHD, and suggests that there should also be an investigation of any medication effects.


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