What is the latest research on ADHD?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
While much has been learned about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in recent years, there is still much to discover. Some of the primary areas being studied now include the roles that brain imaging, behavior, and genes play in ADHD diagnosis and treatment.

One of the most extensive studies on ADHD, supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, is the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (MTA study). The MTA study analyzed the efficacy of different types of ADHD treatment. People were divided into three groups: those who took medications, those who received therapy treatment, and those who received both treatments simultaneously.

Another major study that focused on ADHD in the preschool years was the Preschoolers with ADHD Treatment Study (PATS). In the PATS study, researchers looked at how medications affected preschool children and whether preschool children experienced significant side effects. The PATS study also focused on genetics, to see whether a person's genes affected the way they responded to ADHD medications.

In the future, scientists hope to conduct more research to understand more about the causes of ADHD, including genetic and environmental factors.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

As technology improves, one exciting area of research is brain-imaging research. A new study examining the brains of kids aged 10 to 18 with ADHD found that their prefrontal cortices were activated differently from non-ADHD kids. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls behavior such as impulsivity, as well as complex thinking processes that affect attention, so it is fascinating to actually be able to see the differences that might be responsible for the change in behavior.


Medical researchers are also learning how medications affect really young kids as well as teenagers. Two huge, well-designed studies found that some low-dose stimulant medications may be safe for preschoolers, although there are more side effects, and growth rates are slowed. These results further emphasize how closely young ones on these types of medications need to be monitored. For teenagers, it’s important to evaluate whether the medications that may have worked when they were younger are still helping. These studies are also looking at the genetic makeup of these children to help scientists potentially find a genetic explanation for how and why children respond to medications the way they do.


There are many more studies currently underway that continue to excavate piece by piece the genetic, functional, and structural factors that combined with environmental influences cause ADHD so that ultimately, we can identify the most effective treatments, and maybe even a way to prevent ADHD altogether.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.