ADHD Kids Have Different Brain Pathways, Study Finds

Among disorders that affect early childhood and education, ADHD is one of the more puzzling and frustrating to deal with, because the uninitiated may perceive the behaviors and struggles of children affected by the disorder to be a result of “bad parenting” or “lack of structure.”

Even given the evidence of a specific, confirmed set of criteria for diagnosis, many reject the condition as an “excuse” for disorganization or errant behavior. But a new study has added to the pile of convincing evidence that kids affected by ADHD process visual information differently than those without the condition. A study whose findings were presented at a conference of the Radiological Society of North America included 36 children- 18 with ADHD and 18 who did not have the condition. What the functional MRI-generated results found was that the kids in the ADHD group had “distinct patterns of [brain] activity” identifiable in the tests, one researcher explained to WebMD:

The test requires the children to pay attention and visualize, remember ,and compare the numbers, says study leader Xiaobo Li, PhD, assistant professor of radiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

“What we found,” she tells WebMD, “is that the pattern of brain activity for processing visual attention information looks a little different in children with ADHD.”

Specifically, the scans of children with ADHD showed less activity in brain regions involved in visual attention and working memory, Li says.

ADHD is thought to affect 5-8% of school aged children, and the research could lead to more definitive ways to diagnose the condition- perhaps before the onset of symptoms.