Brain iron levels offer a potential biomarker in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and may help physicians and parents make better informed treatment decisions, according to new research published online in the journal Radiology.
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For the study, the research team measured brain iron levels in 22 children and adolescents with ADHD, 12 of whom had never been on medication for their condition (medication naïve), and 27 healthy control children and adolescents using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique called magnetic field correlation imaging. The technique was introduced in 2006 by study co-authors and faculty members Joseph A. Helpern, Ph.D., and Jens H. Jensen, Ph.D. No contrast agents were used, and blood iron levels in the body were measured using a blood draw.
The results showed that the 12 ADHD medication-naïve patients had significantly lower brain iron levels than the 10 ADHD patients who had been on psychostimulant medication and the 27 children and adolescents in the control group. In contrast, ADHD patients with a history of psychostimulant medication treatment had brain iron levels comparable to controls, suggesting that brain iron may increase to normal levels with psychostimulant treatment.
"Our research suggests that iron absorption into the brain may be abnormal in ADHD given that atypical brain iron levels are found even when blood iron levels in the body are normal," Dr. Adisetiyo said.