ADHD Home > ADHD Brain Changes

Researchers are studying different areas of the brain to better understand the potential causes of ADHD. Children with ADHD are known to have a 3 percent to 4 percent smaller brain volume in all areas of the brain. Of these children, those who have not been treated with ADHD medications also show an abnormally small volume of white matter -- the part of the brain responsible for transmitting information. It is hoped that by better understanding these ADHD brain changes, newer and more effective treatments can be developed.

Brain Changes in ADHD: An Overview

Scientists are actively researching several aspects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The goal of this research is to better understand the possible causes of ADHD and discover better ways of treating this condition. One area of current research focuses on the brain changes seen in children with ADHD.
A basic knowledge of the brain's structure can help people understand where scientists are looking for a physical basis for ADHD.
ADHD research scientists are currently studying the frontal lobes of the cerebrum (the largest part of the brain). The frontal lobes allow us to solve problems, plan ahead, understand the behavior of others, and restrain our impulses. The two frontal lobes, the right and the left, communicate with each other through a bundle of nerve fibers known as the corpus callosum. 
Another important area of the brain is the cerebellum. The cerebellum influences coordination and also plays a role in a person's attention span and ability to process things like language and music. This area of the brain is divided into three parts. The middle part is called the vermis.
The basal ganglia are the gray masses found deep within the cerebral hemisphere. These mases are interconnected and serve as the connection between the cerebrum and the cerebellum. Together with the cerebellum, the basal ganglia are responsible for coordinating a person's movements.
The white matter of the brain is responsible for transmitting information. It consists of fibers that establish long-distance connections between different regions of the brain. The white matter normally thickens as a child grows older and the brain matures.
As a group, children with ADHD have a 3 percent to 4 percent smaller brain volume in all regions -- including the frontal lobes, temporal gray matter, caudate nucleus (one of the basal ganglia), and cerebellum. Interestingly, the volume of white matter in children with ADHD who are on medication does not differ from that of children without ADHD. However, children with this condition who have never been treated with ADHD medications show an abnormally small volume of white matter.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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