ADHD affects an estimated 5 percent to 8 percent of school-aged children. Symptoms, which can persist into adulthood, include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity beyond what's normally seen given a child's age and development.
Though researchers suggested that the brain connectivity abnormalities could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool for ADHD, other experts say far more needs to be learned first. That would include doing studies with more children, and determining whether the differences in connectivity observed on the fMRI scans are exclusively seen in kids with ADHD or also in children with other conditions.
"To suggest that fMRI should be recommended as an initial evaluation of ADHD patients is certainly not justified at this point and there are no immediate clinical recommendations that would come out of this," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Though the findings are "far from being a diagnostic tool, it does suggest some brain mechanism is associated with the symptoms," he added.
There is no single test for ADHD. Currently, doctors diagnose ADHD using information about a child's behavior from parents and other caregivers and a medical exam to rule out other conditions.
"Diagnosing ADHD is very difficult because of its wide variety of behavioral symptoms," Li said. "Establishing a reliable imaging biomarker of ADHD would be a major contribution to the field."
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on ADHD.
SOURCES: Xiaobo Li, Ph.D., assistant professor, radiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Andrew Adesman, M.D., chief, developmental and behavioral p
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