Plotting ‘brain growth’ charts could help in early diagnosis of ADHD: Study

Plotting ‘brain growth’ charts could help in early diagnosis of ADHD: Study

For parents, the revelation that their children might be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) will be no less than a nightmare. The fact that ADHD is evident in children in the form of symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, or, at times, both, makes it necessary for doctors to identify the disease at an early stage. This would help in early treatment of the disorder by using behavior therapy, medications and other necessary interventions.

A recent study, titled “Growth Charting of Brain Connectivity Networks and the Identification of Attention Impairment in Youth,” by the University of Michigan Medical School suggested that doctors can create a blueprint of brain networks that could help pinpoint early indications of attention problems, and possibly, ADHD.

Brain charts can help predict performance of participants on an attention test

To evaluate the link between variations in Intrinsic Connectivity Networks (ICNs) and paying attention, the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in April 2016, examined data of 519 children and teenagers from a prior study called Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort.

The participants had undergone genomic testing, brain imaging and associated trials to test advancement of cognitive abilities. The researchers then created brain charts displaying the brain’s configuration of networks.

The researchers could predict the performance of the participants on an attention test by using these brain charts. Thus, the study presented the possibility to use brain imaging “biomarkers” to diagnose attention problems and stressed that the idea could help detect other mental conditions. The scientists believed that the arrangement of these ICNs and their method of interaction may be the necessary attribute to healthy attention.

Brain development chart

The idea of charting brain networks stemmed from the current use of traditional growth charts by pediatricians to highlight a child’s weight and height as curves based on observations from scores of other children.

Stressing on the idea of developing brain network charts on the same lines as growth charts, team leader and University of Michigan psychiatrist, Dr. Chandra Sripada said, “Growth charts enable a family and their physician to quickly spot problematic development, and when necessary, intervene appropriately. In the future, we want to provide clinicians with the same sort of guidance about brain development that we can about things like height and weight.”

The study focused on the possibility whether growth charts could be instrumental in testing the association between underdeveloped brain networks and difficulty with attention, said lead author of the study Daniel Kessler.

ABCD and teens’ treatment

With a hope to develop the technique by using cheaper methods like electroencephalography as opposed to the current use of MRI imaging, Sripada said, “These brain network growth charts show real promise. But they are far away from being ready for clinical use.”

The researchers hoped that the same method of brain imaging will find applications in adolescent brain cognitive development (ABCD) which will involve the treatment of 10,000 teenagers in the future.

Previous studies focused on the methods to identify the signs of ADHD at an early stage, but the use of brain imaging characteristics to identify attention deficits might open new avenues for better and proper diagnosis of the disease in the near future. Medical practitioners might recommend therapies based on the intensity and progress of the disease as detected by the mapping of the brain networks.

This technique can be a stepping stone in the treatment of ADHD that affects as many as 5 percent of the American children, as per the American Psychiatric Association.

Road to recovery

Children afflicted with ADHD often work two times harder than their peers, while also constantly being at the receiving end of brickbats due to people’s lack of knowledge about the disorder. Many consider it as a behavioral issue or the result of bad parenting.

Medication can help ADHD patients to pay attention so that they reach their full potential. It is important to recognize ADHD and seek timely and effective interventions at any of the recognized mental health centers. The Sovereign Mental Health Services is adept at providing innovative and evidence-based therapeutic interventions for treatment of ADHD and various other mental disorders. You may contact the 24/7 helpline at (866) 954-0529 or chat online with one of our representatives to know about one of our mental health facilities in your vicinity.

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