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BellaOnline's Attention Deficit Disorder Editor


Attention Deficit Disorder Diagnostic Tools

Over the years myths have been perpetuated about Attention Deficit Disorder based on the fact that diagnosing it is an art and a science. There has not been one specific diagnostic tool that can be used. Social histories, rating scales, comparing reaction times, and scores on standardized IQ tests are combined to give a diagnosis. These multiple measures allow the popular press, some physicians, and members of the public to opine that ADD is a fictitious disorder. Research to find a different way to diagnose Attention Deficit Disorder has been proceeding in facilities from England to India, Israel to Spain. What have the researchers found out?

Imaging technology can help in the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder. The journal Radiology reported in June of 2014 that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to compare brain iron levels of people with and without ADD. They found that those people with ADD who had never used stimulant medication had lower brain iron levels than the control group of people who did not have Attention Deficit Disorder and those subjects with ADD who had taken stimulant medication.

Researchers at the University of California - Davis Health System used imaging to study alpha and beta waves in children with Attention Deficit Disorder. They were checking to see if visual cues were affected by ADD. "The alpha and beta waves showed a surprising side of Attention Deficit Disorder when the waves from children with the inattentive type and the combined type were compared. Children with the inattentive type had alpha waves that showed difficulty in processing visual cues. Beta waves indicated that those adolescents with the combined type of ADD/ADHD could not effectively process visual cues and translate them to motor action."

In addition to imaging, researchers in England and Spain are looking at the genetic code (DNA copy number variants and polymorphisms) while searching for genetic differences in people with Attention Deficit Disorder compared to people without ADD. The British research looked at copy number variants in DNA. They found differences, especially on chromosome 16. This is an area that influences brain development. In Spain, Alaitz Molano who has a PhD. in Pharmacology and a degree in Biochemistry from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country researched gene variants called polymorphisms in hopes of developing a diagnostic chip for Attention Deficit Disorder. "Thirty-two polymorphisms were identified in the study as commonly found in children with Attention Deficit Disorder. These thirty-two polymorphisms also helped to confirm the belief that there are three different subtypes of Attention Deficit Disorder: inattention, hyperactivity, and combined type. "

A 2014 study completed in Israel looked for physiological markers to help in the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Researchers at Tel Aviv University used involuntary eye movements as a diagnostic tool for ADHD/ADD. Their research shows that "involuntary eye movements accurately reflect the presence of ADHD, as well as the benefits of medical stimulants that are used to treat the disorder."

Two groups of people participated in the Tel Aviv study. These 22 persons included the control group. Their members did not have Attention Deficit Disorder. The other participants had a diagnosis of ADHD. Both groups took the same computer test on two different occasions. As they were tested, their involuntary eye movements were monitored. The group with ADHD took the test without medication the first time. The second time, they used a stimulant, methylphenidate, to see if there would be any change. The unmedicated testing with the ADHD group showed a higher level of involuntary eye movements. When taking stimulants, these participants showed improvements in their involuntary eye movements. This could be a potent diagnostic tool for assessing Attention Deficits.

Will there ever be just one test for Attention Deficit Disorder? Who knows? However, we are living in a time when researchers are finding more objective ways to hone in on a diagnosis. Perhaps one day, there will be more science and less art in how Attention Deficit Disorder is diagnosed.


Radiological Society of North America. "MRI technique may help prevent ADHD misdiagnosis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2014. .

University of California - Davis Health System. "Study finds biomarker differentiating the inattentive, combined subtypes of ADHD." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2013. .

Wellcome Trust. "First direct evidence that ADHD is a genetic disorder: Children with ADHD more likely to have missing or duplicated segments of DNA." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2010. .

Basque Research. "DNA chip to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2013. .

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Involuntary eye movement a foolproof indication for ADHD diagnosis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 August 2014. .

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Content copyright © 2015 by Connie Mistler Davidson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Connie Mistler Davidson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Mistler Davidson for details.


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