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Delay in Brain Development Associated with ADHD

Delay in Brain Development Associated with ADHDA new NIH study suggests a delay in brain development, rather than a total alteration in normal development, is the instigating factor for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In the current investigation, researchers expanded an earlier study that found thickening of the brain’s cerebral cortex is delayed in children diagnosed with ADHD.

The cerebral cortex is the folded gray tissue that makes up the outermost portion of the brain, covering the brain’s inner structures. This tissue has left and right hemispheres and is divided into lobes.

Each lobe performs specific and vitally important functions, including attention, cognition, language, and sensory processing.

Two dimensions of this structure are cortical thickness and cortical surface area, both of which mature during childhood as part of the normal developmental process.

In the study, published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers set out to measure whether surface area development is delayed in a similar manner to the thickening process. To do this they recruited 234 children with ADHD and 231 typically developing children.

Each child was scanned with neuroimaging equipment up to four times. The first scan was taken at about age 10, and the final scan was around age 17.

Using advanced neuroimaging technology, researchers were able to map the trajectories of surface area development at over 80,000 points across the brain. They found that the development of the cortical surface is delayed in frontal brain regions in children with ADHD.

For example, the typically developing children attained 50 percent peak area in the right prefrontal cortex at a mean age of 12.7 years, whereas the ADHD children didn’t reach this peak until 14.6 years of age.

“As other components of cortical development are also delayed, this suggests there is a global delay in ADHD in brain regions important for the control of action and attention,” said Dr. Philip Shaw, a clinician studying ADHD at the National Institute of Mental Health and first author of this study.

“These data highlight the importance of longitudinal approaches to brain structure,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “Seeing a lag in brain development, we now need to try to understand the causes of this developmental delay in ADHD.”

Investigators believe the finding suggests genes that control the timing of brain development are linked to development of ADHD.

As such, Shaw believes researchers should “search for genes that control the timing of brain development in the disorder, opening up new targets for treatment.”

Source: Elsevier

Delay in Brain Development Associated with ADHD

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). Delay in Brain Development Associated with ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 31 Jul 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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