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Types of ADHD: Making the Diagnosis

How Did Amen Come Up With His Types of ADHD?

Amen has performed and analyzed thousands of single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) brain scans on people with psychological problems. SPECT uses a radioactive dye to create a three-dimensional image of the blood flow and activity in the brain. It is typically used to diagnose medical conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and head injury. Amen says this type of scan also can provide doctors with more thorough information about ADHD and other psychological conditions.

SPECT scans don't themselves diagnose ADHD, but they can help fine-tune the diagnosis when considered together with the patient's medical history and psychiatric evaluation, according to Amen. He says these scans measure whether areas of the brain are working correctly, too much, or not enough. Knowing which areas of the brain are problematic in children with ADHD can help doctors focus treatments on those areas. SPECT also can identify how well a child's medication is working, according to Amen.

Amen's descriptions of the types of ADHD are controversial.  The use of non-invasive technologies to aid in the diagnosis and classification of types of ADHD seems to be the wave of the future. For instance, the FDA has approved the use of the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System, a noninvasive scan that measures theta and beta brain waves. The theta/beta ratio has been shown to be higher in children and adolescents with ADHD than in children without it. The scan is approved for use in children aged 6 to 17 years and is meant to be part of a complete medical and psychological exam to diagnose ADHD. 

More studies are needed, however, to verify findings like the ones Amen describes. 



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD on May 15, 2012

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