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Brain abnormality found in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Date:3/17/2009

Researchers trying to uncover the mechanisms that cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder have found an abnormality in the brains of adolescent boys suffering from the conditions, but not where they expected to find it.

Boys with either or both of these disorders exhibited a different pattern of brain activity than normally developing boys when they played a simple game that sometimes gave them a monetary reward for correct answers, according to a new study by a University of Washington research team.

The research focused on two brain areas, the striatum and anterior cingulate cortex. The striatal region is a network of structures in the mid brain that motivates people to engage in pleasurable or rewarding behavior. The anterior cingulate is higher in the brain and normally activates when an expected reward stops. However, this process, called extinction, doesn't occur, at least as quickly, in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity or conduct disorders. Instead, the striatal region continues to be activated, said Theodore Beauchaine, a UW associate professor of psychology and senior author of the paper.

"When children engage in impulsive behavior they are looking to stimulate themselves and have fun. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are always looking to have fun and that is what gets them in trouble," he said. "A behavior should stop when the reward stops. When you stop the reward for children with these disorders, they continue to focus on the reward long afterward and the anterior cingulate does not appear to become activated."

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common mental disorders among children, affecting between 3 and 5 percent of school-age youngsters, or an estimated 2 million.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare brain activity in 19 boys with either or both disorders and 11 normally developing boys. The a
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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