Study finds evidence that ADHD may be genetic disorder

by Kelly MacNeil on October 1, 2010

For the first time, a study has found evidence that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be a genetic condition, as opposed to what some have blamed on everything from poor parenting to a bad diet in the past.

The results of the study were published online in the journal The Lancet and mostly funded by the Wellcome Trust, with additional support from Action Medical Research, the Medical Research Council and the European Union.

Professor Anita Thapar, who was the lead author of the study and part of the research team at Cardiff University, said in a statement that it was the hope of the team that the research would help erase the negative stigma associated with ADHD.

"Too often, people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet," Thapar said. "As a clinician, it was clear to me that this was unlikely to be the case. Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children."

The study found that children with ADHD were more likely to have small segments of their DNA duplicated or missing when compared to children without the behavioral condition. Essentially, the researchers found that the brains of ADHD children were different.

A total of 366 children who were diagnosed with ADHD had their genomes analyzed against more than 1,000 control samples in an effort to find differences within the genetic makeup. The researchers found 57 large, rare copy number variants in children with ADHD compared with 78 in the control group.

John Williams from the Wellcome Trust told TheAustralian.com described the research as a "testament to the perseverance" of Thapar and her team "to prove the often unfashionable theory that ADHD is a brain disorder with genetic links.

According to the Associated Press, an estimated 3 to 5 percent of children in the U.S. suffer from ADHD. 

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