The study revealed that the brains of children with ADHD were slightly smaller in at least five regions, including those regions that are responsible for controlling emotions, understanding and voluntary movements.
In conducting the largest brain imaging study of its kind, an worldwide team of researchers found that ADHD involves decreased volume in key brain regions, in particular the amygdala, which is responsible for regulating the emotions.
A study of children and adults with attention deficit disorders suggests their brains may have structural differences, which could change the way the condition is understood.
Study authors revealed that they did not observe a difference in people who took drugs for ADHD, which means that the drugs don't have an effect on the brain.
Hoogman points to other conditions where brain size differences are commonplace, such as major depressive disorder (MDD). Although the disorder is most common in children and teenagers, it could sometimes advance into adult years - making it hard for the patient to live a healthy, balanced life. Their findings support previous theories that ADHD people's brains may develop more slowly."By the time they become adults, the differences in their brains are not significant anymore", Hoogman said.
The findings are published this week in the medical journal 'The Lancet Psychiatry.' Specifically, the brains studied of ADHD patients have smaller amygdala and hippocampi, which would affect impulse control. It is the work of the ENIGMA Consortium, an global multidisciplinary group that is investigating genetic and brain-imaging differences in psychiatric disorders.
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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.
A neuro-developmental disorder, ADHD patients are often inattentive, hyperactive and highly impulsive.
"These differences are very small - in the range of a few percent - so the unprecedented size of our study was crucial to help identify these", she said. The link between ADHD and the hippocampus could perhaps arise from that region's involvement in motivation and emotion, they suggest.
The scientists reviewed one scan per person and found no effect from ADHD medications.
The research was praised by Columbia University's Jonathan Posner as "an important contribution" to the study of the condition.
Furthermore, the review has shown an insignificant difference in the brain volumes. The difference between the brains of those who have ADHD and those of the ones who don't is small.