MRI Scans Could Be Used To Improve ADHD Diagnoses

MRI scans of a brain. MriMan/Shutterstock

New research suggests that using MRI scans could help medical professionals improve diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by making it easier to distinguish between different subtypes.

The study, published in the journal Radiology, uses brain scans to identify the three primary subtypes of ADHD. These are predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and a combination of the two. Diagnoses are currently done based on symptoms, so the team hope that by using MRI scans, they can speed up the time it takes patients to access treatment.

"The main aim of the current study was to establish classification models that can assist the psychiatrist or clinical psychologist in diagnosing and subtyping of ADHD based on relevant radiomics signatures," co-author Dr Qiyong Gong of Sichuan University said in a statement.

The team at the West China Hospital where Dr Gong works looked at MRI scans of 83 children between the age of seven and 14 that were newly diagnosed (and so never treated) for ADHD. They also looked at the brain scans of 87 children of similar age and with no ADHD. The team found no difference in brain volume between the two groups or in the volume of gray and white matter.

The main differences were in the alteration of three brain regions, specifically the area around the left central sulcus, the left temporal lobe, and the bilateral cuneus. The scientists also looked at differences within the ADHD group and discovered features that allowed them to tell the difference between the three subtypes.

The research is a first step in a new field, but it appears promising. The team could tell if a child was suffering from ADHD with 74 percent accuracy, as well as determine if it was either inattentive ADHD or the combined subtype 80 percent of the time.

"This imaging-based classification model could be an objective adjunct to facilitate better clinical decision making," Dr Gong said. "Additionally, the present study adds to the developing field of psychoradiology, which seems primed to play a major clinical role in guiding diagnostic and treatment planning decisions in patients with psychiatric disorders."

The researchers plan to recruit more patients to improve their analysis. ADHD affects between 5 and 7 percent of children and adolescents worldwide.

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