Food and Behaviour Research

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Brain iron levels in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A pilot MRI study

Cortese S, Azoulay R, Castellanos FX, Chalard F, Lecendreux M, Chechin D, Delorme R, Sebag G, Sbarbati A, Mouren MC, Bernardina BD, Konofal E. (2011) World J Biol Psychiatry.  May 17. [Epub ahead of print]  

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Objective. Brain iron deficiency has been supposed to be involved in the pathophysiology of ADHD. Available studies assessing iron in ADHD are based on serum ferritin, a peripheral marker of iron status. To what extent serum ferritin correlates with brain iron (BI) is unclear. The main aim of this study was to compare BI, estimated with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the putamen, pallidum, caudate, and thalamus, between children with and without ADHD. The secondary aim was to assess the correlation between serum ferritin and BI levels.

Methods. Thirty-six children (18 with and 18 without ADHD, the latter including nine healthy controls and nine psychiatric controls) completed MRI and blood sampling. Brain iron levels were estimated by imaging T2*.

Results. Children with ADHD showed significantly lower estimated BI in right and left thalamus compared to healthy controls. Estimated BI did not differ significantly between children with ADHD and psychiatric controls. Children with ADHD had significantly lower levels of serum ferritin than healthy as well as psychiatric controls. Serum ferritin and T2* values did not correlate significantly in most regions.

Conclusions. Low iron in the thalamus may contribute to ADHD pathophysiology.