Kids with ADHD have some smaller than usual brain regions

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The condition is linked with inattention, hyperactivity and strong impulses and is thought to affect one in 20 under-18s. 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.

The overall volume of the brain was smaller for people with ADHD.

The brains of sufferers of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are slightly smaller than those not suffering from the condition, according to a study.

"If you know what region of the brain is involved in ADHD, you could possibly target that part with medication", said Martine Hoogman of Radboud University in the Netherlands, the study's lead author.

Similar differences in brain volume are also seen in other psychiatric disorders, especially major depressive disorder, the researchers said.

The smaller brain structures in children with ADHD but not in adults 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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Given the differences in brain structure they discovered, Hoogman and colleagues suggest that ADHD should be treated like a brain disorder, and not just some label for poor parenting or hard children.

The study, the largest to date of the brains of those with ADHD, was conducted by The Lancet: Psychiatry. It is the work of the ENIGMA Consortium, an worldwide multidisciplinary group that is investigating genetic and brain-imaging differences in psychiatric disorders.

For the current study, the researchers worked with 1,713 individuals with ADHD and 1,529 without, with ages ranging from 4 to 63 years old.

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.

According to them, the amygdala's connection to ADHD is through the brain region's role in emotion regulation while the nucleus accumbens is related to emotional and motivational problems with the condition because of the role it plays in reward processing.

"This study represents an important contribution to the field by providing robust evidence to support the notion of ADHD as a brain disorder", he wrote. 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. "So because this study was orders of magnitude higher in terms of participants, and because it involved sampling broadly and internationally, it gives us more confidence".

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