Skip to content

ADHD in Children Health Center

Font Size

Getting ADHD Kids Back to School

Expert strategies for preparing ADHD kids for a new school year.

What Causes ADHD? continued...

Today, researchers are at work finding a connection between family background and ADHD, which could one day lead to better treatment.

NIMH is one organization leading the charge when it comes to genes and ADHD. In 1997, NIMH launched an ADHD genetics study, which has so far enrolled 1,500 adults and children. The continuing study's next phase could analyze the genetic makeup of more than 1,200 people living with ADHD to identify the genes that play a part in this disorder.

Scientists believe ADHD involves at least two genes, but with 20,000 genes in the human genome, the search is similar to hunting for a needle in a haystack. While the results of the study are still a few years off, the information the scientists are mining could help explain why some people develop ADHD and others don't.

How Does ADHD Affect the Brain?

Finding the cause of ADHD is important, but so is understanding how the brain develops and behaves when a person has it.

"When it comes to brain structure ... we know that kids with ADHD may experience slower development in parts of the brain that could be linked to the disorder," says Mark Wolraich, MD, a professor of pediatrics who specializes in ADHD at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Scientists at NIMH researched this possibility in 2002, looking at different parts of the brain, such as those that help problem-solve, plan ahead, interact with and understand others, and restrain impulses. They found that, in a group of 152 children with ADHD, 3% to 4% had smaller brain volumes in key areas such as these.

"The question now is, does this really correlate with the behavior we see in ADHD, and if it does, can these kids catch up in terms of brain development?" asks Wolraich.

"Over time, can their brains eventually regain some lost ground and reach the same level as their peers who don't have ADHD? These are both questions we are still hoping to answer."

Kids whose brains do "catch up" often outgrow their ADHD as well, explains Wolraich. Or they learn to manage it well enough that it doesn't have a negative impact on their health and well-being.

Today on WebMD

doctor writing on clipboard
mother with child
disciplining a boy
daughter with her unhappy parents
preschool age girl sitting at desk
Child with adhd
father helping son with homework
children in sack race