Researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore observed smaller volume across multiple regions of the cerebral cortex, including the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, in children between the ages of 4 and 5 years who had ADHD symptoms.
"These findings confirm what parents have known for a while," said lead author E. Mark Mahone, PhD, a research scientist at the institute. "Even in very young children, ADHD is a real biological condition with pronounced physical and cognitive manifestations."
Mahone and colleagues looked at brain development in 90 preschool children who had not been treated for ADHD. They found that brain regions showing the greatest reductions in volume were associated with cognitive function and behavior. Given that information, the researchers could predict which child had ADHD issues.
The researchers also did their best to calm fidgety subjects by showing the kids a mock MRI scanner. With that preparation, they successfully scanned 90% of the children in the study.
"MRI research in children can be challenging, particularly for young children with ADHD, as it requires them to lie still for periods up to 30 to 40 minutes," Mahone said.
The findings could help identify early biological signs of ADHD in preschool children or predict to what degree they may be at risk of developing the condition.
"Our hope is that by following these children from early on in life, we will be able to determine which early brain and behavioral signs are most associated with later difficulties, or even better, which aspects of early development can predict better outcome and recovery from the condition," Mahone said.
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