With all the hype that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has gotten over the years, it is not uncommon for parents to worry if their kids have it. Now it seems that in the near future, detection of this common disorder may be an MRI away. ADHD is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity or a combination. It is the most common childhood behavioral diagnosis and affects boys more often than girls. In a recent study of preschoolers, imaging studies found a difference in the brain of those with ADHD symptoms compared to those without symptoms.
Researchers are trying to identify the disorder at an earlier stage (preschool) to help avoid negative effects on childhood behavior. Often studies aren’t done until after the age of 7 on children. This study found that the basal ganglia region of the brain was smaller in the preschool children with ADHD symptoms. Specifically, the reduced volume of the left and right caudate nuclei in the brain can be correlated to two of the three symptoms of ADHD (hyperactivity and impulsivity).
Often, normal behavior that occurs during the toddler and preschool years can be confused with ADHD. However, if parents and teachers both suspect there might be a problem with a child, MRIs in combination with other tests (questionnaires, psychological evaluation, physical exam, cognitive tests, etc.) might help to confirm the diagnosis at an earlier age. Generally ADHD affects about 3 to 7 percent of school age kids.
If is does appear to be ADHD, parents can address the problem through behavioral therapy, medication (if necessary) and doctor visits. Too often, unknowingly, parents can get frustrated when a child doesn’t listen or exhibits some of these symptoms. By understanding what the diagnosis is earlier on, parents can also become better equipped to handle behavioral challenges and learn to change their parenting techniques accordingly.