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Brain Patterns Put ADHD in Focus

A spatial map of the cortical surface area portion of the multimodal brain pattern, demonstrating increases (red) and decreases (blue) associated with ADHD symptoms.

A spatial map of the cortical surface area portion of the multimodal brain pattern, demonstrating increases (red) and decreases (blue) associated with ADHD symptoms.

By Tim Silk, Emma Sciberras & Daryl Efron

Brain scans are revealing the neurobiology underlying specific symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and raising the prospect of individualised treatments.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 5% of school-aged children. It is typically characterised by inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, although not all children with these behaviours will have ADHD. Similarly, not all children with ADHD show the same symptoms. We still don’t know what the underlying mechanisms are in ADHD, but it’s quite clear that it’s not isolated to one or two areas of the brain.

ADHD is a multi-faceted disorder, with a range of risk factors and related conditions adding to its complexity. Diagnostic and treatment decisions are currently made through structured questionnaires and interviews with parents, teachers and children. Specific psychological testing is also used to uncover an individual’s particular difficulties and challenges. At present there is no role for brain scans, brainwave tests or blood tests in the diagnosis of ADHD.

The fact that ADHD presents differently in children suggests there may be a combination of factors at play with specific biological foundations in the brain. In order to improve treatments or predict the likely progression of the condition, it’s important for researchers and clinicians to understand what is happening in the brain.

A Different Approach to ADHD

There have been two recent conceptual shifts in neuro­psychiatric...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.