Scientists Probe Role of Brain in ADHD Cases

Scientists Probe Role of Brain in ADHD Cases

11/14/11  From Fox
News online

A brain area that helps orchestrate mental
activity works overtime in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
reflecting the internal struggle to hold more than one thing in mind at a time,
neuroscientists reported Sunday.

The scientists used a
functional magnetic imaging scanner to track signs of neural activity among 19
affected children and 23 other children who were asked to remember a simple
sequence of letters. The scientists discovered that a critical mental control
area, called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, worked much harder and,
perhaps, less efficiently among children with attention problems.

This fundamental
difference in brain function might be
an underlying cause of the inattentiveness, impulsivity and focus problems that
make it hard for ADHD children to concentrate in the classroom, the scientists
said during an annual gathering of 31,000 brain researchers in Washington, D.C.

“Our findings suggest that the function as well as the structure of this
brain area is different in children with ADHD,” said Wayne State
University biologist Tudor Puiu, who reported the team’s findings Sunday at a
conference held by the Society for Neuroscience.

All told, about two
million US
children have been diagnosed with attention problems. No one yet understands
the basic neurobiology responsible for the mental ailment, which has grown more
common since 2003, according to a survey by the US Health Resources and
Services Administration.

The finding reported
Sunday adds to growing biomedical evidence that those diagnosed with the
attention disorder, arguably the most common childhood behavioral issue, have
unusual patterns of brain function that can persist well into adulthood.

Overall, the brain of an
ADHD child matures normally, but it may take up to three years longer to fully
develop, especially in areas at the front of the brain’s cortex, an outer layer
of tissue important in controlling attention, reasoning and planning.

Researchers have also
reported a range of specific anatomical differences among ADHD children that
may be linked to behavioral problems. Earlier this month, researchers at New
York University’s Langone School of Medicine
reported that ADHD children appeared to have a significantly thinner cortex and
less gray matter than other children in some areas involved in regulating
attention and emotion.

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