New Research Findings about Brain Differences in ADHD

With advancements in brain imaging technology, researchers are learning more about the biological basis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We now know that ADHD is a biologically-based condition, and individuals with ADHD have differences in their brain wiring. Studies have demonstrated these brain differences in older children and teenagers with ADHD, but until recently researchers had not studied the brains of very young children.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute did brain scans of 90 4 and 5-year-old children, half of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD. None of the children had taken psychiatric medication. Results showed considerable brain differences between the children with ADHD and typically developing children. Specifically, children with ADHD showed a reduction in size of several brain regions, including the frontal lobe. Children with more significant brain differences showed more severe ADHD symptoms.

This was one of the first studies to demonstrate that the brain differences among individuals with ADHD are apparent as early as in the preschool years. The researchers intend to continue to study the children’s brains over time to track changes as the children mature and develop. Future research can also study how treatment may affect brain structures and wiring.

For young children with ADHD, the first line of treatment is often behavioral therapy and guidance for parents. Through work with a therapist, parents can learn effective strategies to manage challenging behaviors, teach children self-regulation skills, and implement structure and routines at home. Contact Georgetown Psychology Associates for more information about the parent consultation services we offer.

References and Further Reading:

Jacobson, L. A., Crocetti, D., Dirlikov, B. Slifer, K. et al. (2018). Anomalous Brain Development is Evident in Preschoolers with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. Published online: 26 March 2018.

Scans Show Differences in Brains of Preschoolers with ADHD. Perri Klass, M.D. New York Times. March 26, 2018.