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Abnormal Brain Growth in Pre-K Kids with ADHD Signs

Abnormal Brain Development Seen in Preschoolers with ADHD SignsNew research using brain imaging has found a difference in brain development among very young preschool children with early symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is the most common pediatric behavioral diagnois,  affecting approximately 2 million children. The disorder is characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

According to the researchers, by age 4, as many as 40 percent of children have sufficient problems with attention to be of concern to parents and preschool teachers. Specialists say this observation is important as children whose symptoms begin in early childhood are at high risk for academic failure and grade repetition.

Because of this risk, researchers believe identification of the disorder early in the course of the diagnosis will allow early intervention and aid long-term outcomes.

Previous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have provided some insights into brain differences associated with ADHD, but these were focused on children ages 7 and older.

In the current study, researchers examined brain images in preschoolers (ages 4 and 5) both with and without symptoms of ADHD, specifically looking at cortical and basal ganglia volumes and the size of these particular areas of the brain.

Researchers analyzed high resolution MRI brain images in 26 preschoolers, 13 presenting with ADHD symptoms and 13 without, and found differences in the caudate nucleus. This is a small structure in the subcortical region of the brain associated with cognitive and motor control.

In the review, researchers discovered children with ADHD symptoms had significantly reduced caudate volumes compared to the children who did not present with ADHD symptoms. Additionally, these caudate volumes were significantly correlated with parent ratings of hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. Cortical volumes, however, were not associated with symptom severity.

Researchers concluded that differences in basal ganglia development, particularly the caudate nucleus, appear to play an important role among children presenting with early onset symptoms of ADHD.

“Clinically, this abnormal brain development sets the stage for the symptoms of ADHD that contribute to cognitive challenges and problems in school,” said lead author Mark Mahone, Ph.D. “Earlier identification and treatment of children presenting with attention problems in the preschool years may minimize the impact of ADHD in the long-term.”

Researchers will continue to follow the brain development of the targeted children to determine if abnormalities persist or regress with age.

Source: Kennedy Krieger Institute

Abnormal Brain Growth in Pre-K Kids with ADHD Signs

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Abnormal Brain Growth in Pre-K Kids with ADHD Signs. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 10 Jun 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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