Childhood ADHD Tied to Adult Anatomic Brain Changes

Thinner cortex, less gray matter in adults with childhood ADHD, regardless of current diagnosis

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Adults with combined-type childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a significantly thinner cortex and reduced gray matter, regardless of their current diagnosis, according to a study published in the November issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Erika Proal, Ph.D., from the New York University Langone School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues investigated whether adults with combined-type childhood ADHD have anatomic brain differences, and assessed the correlation between these differences and current ADHD diagnosis, including persistent versus remitting ADHD. Magnetic resonance images were obtained for 59 male probands aged 6 to 12 years, and 80 comparison participants free of childhood ADHD. Analysis was carried out in a 33-year prospective follow-up when the participants had a mean age of 41.2 years.

The investigators found that, in ADHD probands, the cortex was significantly thinner in the dorsal attentional network and limbic areas, and the gray matter was significantly decreased in the right caudate, right thalamus, and bilateral cerebellar hemispheres compared to the control group. There were no significant differences seen in probands with persistent or remitting ADHD. At an uncorrected P value of <0.05, those with remitting ADHD had thicker cortex in the medial occipital cortex, insula, parahippocampus, and prefrontal regions compared to those with persistent ADHD.

"The most affected regions underpin top-down control of attention and regulation of emotion and motivation. Exploratory analyses suggest that diagnostic remission may result from compensatory maturation of prefrontal, cerebellar, and thalamic circuitry," the authors write.

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