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Medications aren't affecting brain size in children with ADHD

Although children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have slightly smaller brains than children without the disorder, medications used to treat ADHD aren't causing this apparent difference in brain size and do not appear to be affecting normal brain development, according to the largest brain imaging study yet conducted on children with the disorder.

The new study confirms previous findings showing that the brains of children with ADHD tend to be smaller than the brains of children without the disorder, and it reveals for the first time that stimulant medications, such as Ritalin, aren't affecting brain size, says F. Xavier Castellanos, M.D., the Brooke and Daniel Neidich Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Professor of Radiology at New York University School of Medicine, who led the new study.

"Our study should provide a certain amount of reassurance that medications aren't reducing brain size in children with ADHD," says Dr. Castellanos, who is also Director of the new Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience at the NYU Child Study Center at NYU School of Medicine. "Parents shouldn't be so concerned about the slight difference in brain volume among children with ADHD anyway, since this measurement doesn't have much meaning, " he says.

The study also shows that children with ADHD undergo normal brain development, although the data aren't considered definitive. Brain development appeared normal and healthy among all the children who were studied over the 10-year period of the study.

The study is published in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to study brain volume, comparing children with ADHD and those without the disorder. All the children had follow-up scans over a 10-year period. The study, which was conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health, a branch of the Nation
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Contact: Catherin Collier
Catherine.Collier@med.nyu.edu
212-263-3652
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
8-Oct-2002


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