a network of neuronsA new type of brain imaging could be used to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study from West China Hospital of Sichuan University in China used resting-state functional magnetic resonance (rfMRI) imaging to investigate abnormalities in the brains of young people with ADHD. The results demonstrated disrupted connections between several areas of the brain related to executive function. The findings could help scientists diagnose ADHD more definitively.

Past research into ADHD has often relied on fMRI scans, which measure brain activity while the brain works on specific tasks. Using the rfMRI, the researchers at Sichuan University examined the brains of boys aged six to 16. Thirty-three of the boys had ADHD and 32 did not. In addition to the rfMRI, the boys completed executive function tests, which the researchers correlated to the rfMRI results.

The brain imaging revealed that young people with ADHD have abnormal brain structure. The orbitofrontal cortex (involved in decision making and planning) and the globus pallidus (involved in executive function) were two of the affected areas. The abnormalities present in the resting-state connections between brain networks suggest that ADHD’s effects on the brain could be more widespread than previously thought.

“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 systems. Our preliminary results show the association between imaging findings and symptoms,” stated Qiyong Gong, M.D., Ph.D., neuroradiologist from West China Hospital.

The findings may help scientists to better understand ADHD and they could lead to an accurate method of ADHD detection in young people. The research team for the present study is already planning a follow-up study to evaluate how brain connectivity in people with ADHD changes over time.

This research is published in the journal Radiology.

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