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Brain Region Interactions that Control Attention Found to be Weak in ADHD

The subjective nature of tools used to assess ADHD, such as rating scales and feedback from parents and educators has long been criticized by media and naysayers even though all mental health disorders are diagnosed in this manner. For this reason a recent study’s findings may be are of interest to the ADHD community. Weidong Cai PhD, an instructor in psychiatry and behavioural sciences and the study’s lead author indicated that it would be very beneficial to have a diagnostic measure that uses more objective and reliable measures.

The team of researchers studied functional magnetic resonance imaging brain (MRI) scans from 180 children, half with ADHD and half without. The children were also assessed for ADHD with the usual diagnostic tools. The team focused on a set of brain regions that work together to help decide where one’s attention should be directed. They scored each brain according to its level of synchronization.

The study found that interactions between three brain regions that assist us with paying attention were weaker than normal in these children. Brain circuits that help us to stay focused and stop day dreaming had less influence on the brain activity of children with ADHD. Dr. Vinon Menon, the study’s lead author reported that issues with these three brain networks continuously showed up regardless of which cognitive task the children were asked to do.

The difference was significant enough that brain scans could distinguish between those children with ADHD and those without. In addition, the severity of their ADHD correlated with the degree of weakness.

Future research is required to assess whether functional MRIs can be used to differentiate between brains of children with ADHD and other conditions and as an ADHD diagnostic tool.

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