A unique neurodevelopmental index for children with ADHD

A/Prof Eileen Lueders, University of Auckland

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a debilitating neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 1 in 20 New Zealand children. ADHD appears to have its roots in abnormal brain development.

Measuring brain development in children

Previous research based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has led to a measure, termed “brain age” (which can be different from a person’s chronological age). Brain age can be understood as a neurodevelopmental index that reflects the level of maturation in each brain. If the brain age is smaller than a person’s chronological age it indicates a developmental delay.  Brain age is calculated based on a single brain scan using a machine learning algorithm that has been validated in a sample of 394 normally developing children aged 5-18 years.

Developing a new tool to help ADHD diagnosis and treatment

Associate Professor Lueders, from the University of Auckland, is leading a team to investigate the link between ADHD and neurodevelopment using the aforementioned “brain age” approach. The team aims to quantify the difference in brain age between children with ADHD and those with typical development. In addition, it will investigate whether there is an association between brain age and the severity of ADHD symptoms.

Boys are diagnosed with ADHD more than twice as often as girls. For this reason, the team will also explore if there are differences in delayed brain development between boys and girls with ADHD. Apart from uncovering the magnitude of developmental delays in ADHD, the study will provide a strong basis for future research. The neurodevelopment index may also enhance existing healthcare approaches to ADHD screening, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.

Cure Kids is backing the professor and her team

Cure Kids funding is allowing Associate Professor Lueders and her team to carry out this important research into quantifying a relationship between delayed brain development and ADHD.