Featured News Brain scans show ADHD not all in the mind

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Mon, 9 May 2016

Brain scans show ADHD not all in the mind

A James Cook University researcher has brought together compelling evidence showing that ADHD is a real medical condition and not simply children misbehaving.

Dr Helen Boon said some teachers and parents didn’t believe ADHD was a genuine condition. “International surveys indicate that many teachers are ambivalent about recognising ADHD as a real disease. They don’t know how to approach it and they get frustrated.”

In addition, school resources and support staff such as teacher aides are not automatically provided to children with ADHD unless they have major cognitive impairments or additional disabilities like autism.

Dr Boon surveyed 174 neuroimaging studies involving MRI scans that compared the brain function of people diagnosed with ADHD against a control group.  She said the ADHD group was found to have significant neural anatomical and processing differences.

Dr Boon said the studies were unanimous. “The brain circuitry in someone with ADHD is different from someone without - no question.”

She said that despite the problem manifesting itself physically, research showed cognitive and behavioural approaches, rather than medication, were the best way to help children with ADHD.

Dr Boon said there was still some question over whether abusive parenting could cause physical changes in young brains and lead to children developing ADHD. But she said the debate over whether the condition was caused by nature or nurture was largely irrelevant to whether or not it should be recognised as a real condition.

Dr Boon said she was very sceptical of how ‘real’ ADHD was before starting the study and didn’t expect the results to be so clear-cut.


Dr Helen Boon

T: 07 4781 6030

E: Helen.boon@jcu.edu.au

(Dr Boon works at JCU’s Townsville campus)

Link to paper: http://bit.ly/23t9OjP