What is the role of imaging studies in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Updated: Oct 01, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Brain imaging, such as functional MRI or single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans have been useful for research, but no clinical indication exists for these procedures because the diagnosis is clinical.

However, in the largest imaging study of ADHD conducted to date, investigators found that five regions of the brain were slightly smaller in children with ADHD compared to children without the disorder. The study included 1713 individuals with ADHD and 1529 unaffected controls. Participants ranged in age from 4 years to 63 years (median age, 14 years). Researchers used MRI scans to assess the differences in the subcortical structures and intracranial volume of patients' brains. Patients with ADHD were found to have reductions in the volumes of the accumbens, the amygdala, the caudate, the hippocampus, and the putamen, as well as reductions in intracranial volume. Effect sizes were highest in most subgroups of children (21 years). [31]

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