Brains Develop Slower in Children with ADHD

Eileen Bailey Health Guide

    Children with ADHD experience up to a three year delay in brain development, especially in the areas of the brain that are involved in attention, planning, suppressing inappropriate actions, rewards and remembering from moment to moment. This comes from a new study that was published on Monday, November 12, 2007 in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


    The study, led by Dr. Philip Shaw, was completed with the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Health. According to Dr. Shaw, the study can help to explain why some children outgrow the symptoms of ADHD. His team of researchers compared brain scans of 223 children with ADHD to those of 223 children without ADHD. They viewed how brains thicken, or mature and discovered that the brains of children with ADHD typically developed at a slower rate.

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    Another interesting aspect of the study is the finding that the primary motor cortex developed at a faster rate than those of children without ADHD. The researchers speculate that this may cause the hyperactivity and restlessness common with ADHD.


    The good news behind this study is that the brains of children with ADHD developed in the same manner as children without ADHD. The difference was not in how a brain developed, only in the time that it took to develop. Although the study used brain scan imaging to compile data, the researchers indicated that brain scan imaging is not yet a tool to diagnose ADHD but that it can help in learning more about the condition and why the brain develops slower in these children. The study also does not explain why some children do not outgrow symptoms of ADHD and carry them through adulthood.


    Dr. Shaw indicates that they are still learning from the study and are looking at whether children with ADHD do eventually catch up with other children in brain development.





    ADHD Kids Can Get Better, November 12, 2007, Krista Mahr, Time Magazine


    Study: ADHD kids' brain areas develop slower, Associated Press, November 12, 2007, as reported on


    Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterized by a delay in cortical maturation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, P. Shaw, November 12, 2007

Published On: November 16, 2007