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Differences In Brain Function Found For Attention Deficit Disorder

Stanford neuroscientists have found a clear difference in brain functioning between boys who have attention deficit disorder [ADD] and those who do not, a step that could lead to better diagnosis of the most common developmental disorder of childhood.

Follow-up studies will be required before the results of this study on a small number of boys can lead to brain-based methods of diagnosis, caution the lead researchers, Research Associate Chandan Vaidya and Associate Professor John Gabrieli of Stanford's Department of Psychology. Theirs is the first study, however, to show that Ritalin, the drug most commonly used to treat ADD, has different effects on the brains of people with and without ADD, and where those differences occur in the brain. The findings are reported in the Nov. 24 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is also the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging [FMRI] in the study of ADD. This imaging method can show brain differences in individual people, instead of in averages of differences of two groups. This is critical for diagnosis, which has to be established on an individual basis. Unlike methods used in other studies of ADD, FMRI does not require injection or inhalation of radioactive substances. It relies instead on naturally occurring changes in brain function, which makes it appropriate for research and clinical purposes for children.

Co-authors of the study are medical doctors Glenn Austin and Hugh Ridlehuber and school psychologist Gary Kirkorian of the Community/Academia Coalition in Los Altos, Calif. and Gary Glover and John Desmond of the Stanford Medical Center's Radiology Department.

The findings have drawn considerable attention from neuroscientists because "ADD is so widespread, so controversial and confusing, and these are among the few clear findings in that field," said Gabrieli, who heads the brain imaging laboratory where the research was done. Attention deficit disord
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Contact: Kathleen OToole
kathleen.otoole@stanford.edu
650-725-1939
Stanford University
23-Nov-1998


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