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Apr 30, 2014 05:26 PM EDT

Brain Scans May Be Able To Diagnose ADHD Someday


A simple brain scan may be able to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent study Counsel and Heal reported.

Researchers examined the brains of young children with the mental disorder using  magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) and found that when the brain is at resting state, there are "still disrupted connections between different regions of the brain," Counsel and Heal reported.

Children with ADHD have symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and paying attention, and hyperactive behaviors. Unlike other health conditions, which can be diagnosed by measuring signals within the body called biomarkers, "ADHD and many other mental health conditions are diagnosed based on observed symptoms," Healthline reported.

"Similar to other psychiatric diseases, ADHD's diagnosis is made based on the empirical assessment of a psychiatrist," Qiyong Gong, principal investigator for the study and director of radiology at the Sichuan University Hospital in China, said in an interview with Healthline. "There is no effective diagnosis and treatment mainly due to our poor understanding of the underlying pathophysiology and particularly the lack of objective biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis."

For the study, researchers examined 33 boys with ADHD, ages 6 to 16, and compared them with 32 age-matched children without the disorder.

When they compared the scans of ADHD children to those without ADHD, they found that ADHD patients had abnormal executive function, which encompasses a set of mental abilities that include planning, organizing and regulating emotion.  

The brain scans revealed that the adolescents with ADHD had disrupted connections in certain areas of the brain, such as the orbitofrontal cortex and the globus pallidus, Counsel and Heal reported.

"Our study suggests that the structural and functional abnormalities in these brain regions might cause the inattention and hyperactivity of the patients with ADHD, and we are doing further analysis on their correlation with the clinical symptoms," Gong said. "Our preliminary results show the association between imaging findings and symptoms."

Researchers said their findings could unveil more information about ADHD.

The findings were recently published in Radiology. 

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