Huge discovery inside ADHD brains

QUEENSLAND researchers have played a major role in pinpointing a communication breakdown between key brain regions in people with chronic attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - a finding that could lead to new treatments.

The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute scientists hope to use the information to explore whether non-invasive brain stimulation could be used to ease ADHD symptoms, such as concentration problems.

 

Dr Luca Cocchi, head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute's clinical brain networks team. Picture: Tony Phillips
Dr Luca Cocchi, head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute's clinical brain networks team. Picture: Tony Phillips

Brain imaging was used to compare 80 adults diagnosed with ADHD as children, but who had never used medication for the condition, with 120 healthy people of similar intelligence.

The researchers found no major differences in brain anatomy between the two groups.

But their results suggest "elevated noise" in the signalling between sensory and cognitive areas of the brain in people with the disorder may be related to concentration problems and difficulties in controlling hyperactivity.

Lead researcher Luca Cocchi, the head of QIMR Berghofer's clinical brain networks team, likened the situation to a malfunctioning loudspeaker that emitted a lot of static, making it harder to understand what was being said.

He said the study findings, published in the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry, may lead to more effective treatments.

Dr Cocchi hopes to explore whether transcranial magnetic stimulation, covered by Medicare as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression, can dampen the "neural noise" in ADHD and improve symptoms.

But he needs research funding for a trial.

Dr Luca Cocchi, who led research compared the brain imates of 80 adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children, with 120 healthy participants, of similar intelligence. Picture: Tony Phillips
Dr Luca Cocchi, who led research compared the brain imates of 80 adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children, with 120 healthy participants, of similar intelligence. Picture: Tony Phillips

QIMR Berghofer is already conducting trials of TMS in patients with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has described ADHD as the most common mental disorder in children and adolescents in Australia.

"This is a disorder that has its onset in childhood," Dr Cocchi said.

"Children with ADHD have real difficulty infocusingg and staying still. There are huge implications. They end up not performing well at school, they drop out.

"The development of new therapies can have lifelong consequences.

"It's imperative that the symptoms can be brought under control to allow people with the disorder to finish school and have a fulfilling future."

The QIMR Berghofer research was a collaboration with the National Taiwan University Hospital.



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