Thursday, July 18th, 2013
A brainwave-measuring device that could help diagnose kids with ADHD has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The device’s creators earned the approval after conducting research showing that a 20-minute test on the device, when combined with standard ADHD diagnostic measures, increased the accuracy of doctors’ diagnoses. More on how the device works from the website PopSci.com:
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The device detects two different types of brainwaves, theta and beta, and how frequently they occur. Kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have more theta than beta brainwaves, compared to kids without ADHD.
The FDA approved the device, called the Neuropsychiatric Electroencephalogram-Based Assessment Aid or NEBA, for use with a full medical exam. In a statement, the director of the agency’s Office of Device Evaluation, Christy Foreman, emphasized that the device has to work with other clinical measures.
To get their FDA approval, NEBA’s creators performed a study with 275 kids with attention problems. The study, which the FDA didn’t make public, found that adding a 20-minute NEBA test to standard diagnostic procedures helped doctors diagnose ADHD more accurately.
Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
A new study of U.S. school children has found that black and Hispanic children are half as likely as their white peers to receive a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More from Reuters:
“We’re seeing that the disparities occur as early as kindergarten and then remain and continue until the end of eighth grade,” said Paul Morgan, who led the study at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
“It’s a consistent pattern of what we’re interpreting as comparative underdiagnosis for minority populations,” he told Reuters Health.
That’s a concern, Morgan said, because it means some kids who could benefit from treatment – including medication or talk therapy – and extra help in the classroom may be missing out.
The researchers also found that compared to white children with the condition, minority kids who were diagnosed with ADHD were less likely to be prescribed medications, which include the stimulants Vyvanse, Ritalin and Concerta.
They tracked 15,100 kids from the kindergarten class of 1998-1999 using regular parent surveys.
Image: Latino child, via Shutterstock
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Monday, June 24th, 2013
Women who smoke while pregnant may be raising the chance that their children will develop substance abuse problems, ADHD, and risky behaviors like reckless driving later in life, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found. More from Time.com:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13% of women say they smoked during the last three months of their pregnancy, despite studies that have correlated lighting up with an increased risk of birth defects and heart trouble for their children. Now, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry adds to that list of risks, showing that exposure to smoke in utero may interfere with proper development of the baby’s reward processing system in the brain.
Researchers from Technische Universität Dresden in Germany compared 177 teens between the ages 13 to 15 who had been exposed to cigarettes prenatally to 177 teens whose mothers did not smoke while expecting. To test how the teens reacted to being presented with a reward — which simulated the need to satisfy an addiction — the participants were placed in a functional MRI (fMRI) scan to record their brain activity while they performed specific computer-based tasks. The teens were asked to press a button indicating on which side of the screen a figure popped up, and they were told there would be a reward if they were able to press the correct button fast enough. The scientists also varied the time that the targets appeared on the screen in order to evaluate how quickly the teens processed the anticipated task. Based on previous work with animals that suggested that activity in a specific area of the brain, the ventral striatum, was depressed by nicotine, the researchers focused their attention on this region of the adolescents’ brains.
Indeed, they saw less activity in this area of the brain among the teens whose were exposed to smoke in the womb compared to those who were not, which resulted in longer times to respond to the target. Similar inhibited responses may be behind some addictions, since muted activity of the brain chemicals that signal satisfaction may prompt people to continue to seek this “high” and become dependent on addictive substances or behaviors. “The weaker responsivity of the ventral striatum to regard anticipation in prenatally exposed adolescents may represent a risk factor for substance use and development of addiction later in life. This result highlights the need for education and preventive measures to reduce smoking during pregnancy,” the study authors wrote.
Image: Pregnant woman smoking, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 31st, 2013
Stimulant medications that are prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not predictors of later drug abuse by children, a new report based on more than 20 years of previous research has found. The news will come as a relief to parents who might have concerns about their pediatricians’ ADHD treatment plan. The New York Times has more:
The paper, written by three researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined data from 15 previous studies on the subject and determined that, on average, medications like Adderall and Ritalin had no effect one way or the other on whether children abused alcohol, marijuana, nicotine or cocaine later in life.
A 2003 study in the journal Pediatrics had concluded that the introduction of stimulant medication to children with A.D.H.D. reduced the risk of such abuse later in life, a finding that has been repeated by doctors and pharmaceutical companies not only to assuage parents’ fears of medication but also to suggest that the pills would protect their children from later harm.
“I always doubted the whole ‘protection’ argument, and I wasn’t the only one, but that message was really out there,” said Liz Jorgensen, an adolescent addiction specialist at Insight Counseling in Ridgefield, Conn. “Hopefully, this message will be heard loud and clear.”
The study comes amid growing concern about the persistent rise in A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for medication among children. A recent New York Times analysis of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11 percent of all children ages 4 through 17 — 6.4 million over all — had received a diagnosis of A.D.H.D. from a medical professional. The diagnosis rate rose to 19 percent for boys of high school age.
Stimulant medication is by far the most prevalent treatment for childhood A.D.H.D., with the vast majority of children at least trying medication and about 60 percent of them staying on it long term. Stimulants can drastically improve the lives of children with severe A.D.H.D. but are also increasingly abused by high school and college students for their jolts of focus toward schoolwork.
Side effects can include appetite and growth suppression, sleep disturbance and occasionally psychosis, especially when the stimulants are abused.
The paper released Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry analyzed data from studies conducted from 1980 to 2012, and included more than 2,500 children with A.D.H.D. from the United States, Canada and Germany. They were followed from an average age of 8 into young adulthood.
Image: Prescription medications, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
A boy who is diagnosed during childhood with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has a greater risk of developing obesity as an adult, twice the risk of a child without ADHD, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The findings are, at first glance, counter-intuitive because children with ADHD are known for being active–overly so. But the study identifies a number of factors that contribute to the elevated obesity risk. More from NBC News:
These findings, published in Pediatrics, may be surprising to parents because drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall used to treat ADHD can suppress appetite, said Dr. F. Xavier Castellanos, the study co-author and a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University.
“It’s not uncommon for kids treated with ADHD medications to be fairly thin,” Castellanos said. Because parents often worry that thinner boys won’t grow as tall, “sometimes [they] will encourage their boys to eat more.”
Instead, to help avert weight problems down the road, parents should be alert to poor eating habits. “If anything, you have to pay attention to how many times they’re having fast food, how many times they’re having fried food, whether they’re getting meals supersized,” Castellanos said.
The study comes at a time when ADHD rates are rising. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that ADHD is the most common mental health issue in children ages 3-17, with nearly 7 percent of kids receiving a diagnosis.
The NYU researchers followed 222 boys — 111 with ADHD and 111 without, for an average of 33 years — hoping to better understand the disorder’s effects on the brain. The boys with ADHD, all from middle-class, white families, were diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 12.
Decades later, when some of the men returned for brain scans, many of the now 40-something adults who had ADHD as children had gained so much weight they barely fit into the fMRI machine, Castellanos said.
Image: Boy eating, via Shutterstock
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