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ADHD in Children Health Center

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How Ritalin Affects Brains of Kids With ADHD

Medication activates areas associated with the disorder, scans show

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Because none of the studies looked at the correlation between ADHD symptoms and whether the child was taking Ritalin, there is no way to link the changes in brain activation with clinical improvement, Moore said. "It's possible that kids who are not responsive to Ritalin may have brain changes too," she said.

ADHD affects between 3 percent and 7 percent of school-aged children in the United States, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Boys are more likely to have ADHD than girls.

One expert was not surprised by the results.

"The review article shows there is a consensus of well-designed imaging studies showing that [Ritalin] has an impact on the frontal cortex of the brain, where we have long believed these patients have issues," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park. Adesman wondered if Ritalin may play a role in helping the brain mature.

"Their data provides partial support for that," he said. "But if anything, the medicine seems to help the brain look more normal and doesn't seem to do anything bad to it."

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