Children with ADHD have some smaller brain regions, study shows - Health - CBC News
People with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder have distinct differences in their brain structure, a new study finds, suggesting the disorder should be considered a neurological condition and not simply a behavioural problem.
The research — published Wednesday in Lancet Psychiatry — was described by its authors as the largest-ever review of ADHD patient brain scans.
The scientists evaluated MRI scans and other data from more than 3,200 people, comparing 1,713 patients who had been diagnosed with ADHD to a control group. The patients ranged in age from four to 63.
The researchers found those with ADHD had smaller brain volume in five subcortical regions, as well as an overall smaller brain volume.
The phenomenon was greatest in children and less notable in adults.
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.
"Both of those brain regions are associated with emotional processing. And those types of emotional symptoms [such as impulsivity] are very common in ADHD, but aren't given as much attention or focus as the cognitive symptoms that we see in the disorder," says Dr. Jonathan Posner, an associate professor of psychiatry at New York's Columbia University Medical Center.
Posner wasn't involved in the study, though he did publish a commentary in the same edition of Lancet Psychiatry based on the research.
The findings are important, he adds, because they verify the results of earlier studies considered too small to be conclusive.
And while the findings can't conclude whether brain abnormality is a cause of ADHD or the result of it, Posner says they suggest the behavioural problems in children with ADHD are actually neurological.