Children May Not Actually ‘Grow Out’ Of ADHD After All

There’s a common myth that most children or adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder grow out of the condition as they get older.

A new study suggests that it’s not that simple.

A University of Cambridge study, published Wednesday in the journal European Child Adolescent Psychiatry, found that young adults who had ADHD when they were younger exhibited differences in brain structure and poorer memory performance compared to their peers who never had the disorder. Aspects of the disorder tended to persist into adulthood, even in those subjects who were not diagnosed as adults.

Roughly 9 percent of children ages 4 to 17 have an ADHD diagnosis, and various estimates suggest that somewhere between 10 and 50 percent of children with ADHD still have the disorder as adults. This has led some psychologists to presume that children commonly “outgrow” ADHD as the brain develops into adulthood. However, the Cambridge study suggests that previous research has failed to take into account changes to the brain that are characteristic of ADHD.

To conduct the study, the researchers followed up with 49 young Finnish people in their early 20s who had been diagnosed with ADHD at age 16. The researchers conducted fMRI scans to examine their brain structure and administered tests of memory function.

What did they find? Regardless of whether or not the young adults still met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, nearly all showed reduced brain volume and poorer memory function compared to a control group of subjects who had never been diagnosed with the disorder.

Brain volume reductions were observed in the caudate nucleus, a brain region that is associated with the ability to integrate information from different parts of the brain, and is involved in the storing and processing of memories.

To find out how these neural —> Read More