Scientists have finally revealed substantial evidence that indicates attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder.
The differences were found mostly in children but also in adults with the condition.
Hoogman and colleagues analyzed MRI scans for more than 3,200 people in nine countries aged four to 63, of whom 1,713 who had ADHD.
Caye says the finding around the amygdala was particularly interesting, as researchers have known that many children suffered from poor emotional regulation, but that imaging had not connected the dots. Researchers are still trying to understand ADHD, as it has impact on many children and even adults.
The scientists reviewed one scan per person and found no effect from ADHD medications.
The study involved scanning the brains of 1,713 participants purportedly with ADHD, and 1,529 participants with no signs of any psychological difficulties.
Dr Hoogman said that similar differences in brain volume can be seen in patients with other psychiatric conditions such as major depressive disorder. They concluded that this common illness should be considered an issue of the brain caused by delayed maturation.
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The team found those with ADHD had smaller brain volumes in the accumbens, amygdala, caudate, hippocampus and putamen regions. These brain regions were the hippocampus, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, putamen, and caudate nucleus.
Typically, people with ADHD have poor attention skills and could be hyperactive.
This study, due to its much larger size, can make that link, says Arthur Caye, a psychiatry PhD student at the Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre in Brazil who has published research on ADHD, and who was not involved in the study.
"We hope that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is "just a label" for hard children or caused by poor parenting", said lead author Martine Hoogman of Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.
Another recent study in ADHD dates back to May a year ago, and posits that children with the disorder have some symptoms also found with rare forms of cancer.
"We hope that this will help to reduce stigma that ADHD is "just a label" for hard children or caused by poor parenting", she said in a statement.
For those who live and work in the field, she says the study's findings could assist in erasing some of the stigma and misinformation surrounding the disorder.
"Having less brain in several regions sounds bad but it's not as simple as that", he said, pointing out that decreased brain matter can sometimes be beneficial - like in teenagers, when the outer cortex of their developing brains becomes thinner as their intellectual capacity grows.
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