Children with ADHD taking part in new brain study | Action Medical Research

Children with ADHD taking part in new brain study

22 February 2011

Around 400 young people – including a pair of twins from Surrey - are taking part in a new study funded by children’s charity Action Medical Research, to try to find new ways to predict whether or not children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are likely to grow out of the condition.

The research being carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, involves using a variety of tests with the youngsters - aged 15 – 25 - including EEG (electroencephalography) which measures brain activity using electrode sensors placed on the scalp.

They are also assessing the volunteers’ IQ and gathering detailed information about what sort of symptoms their ADHD is causing and how their lives are being affected. The research team is being led by Dr Jonna Kuntsi.

The team were awarded a research grant of £194,528 over three years, by Action Medical Research, with support from the Boshier-Hinton Foundation.

Around one in 20 children worldwide have ADHD.[1] Children with ADHD can have serious difficulties, with schoolwork and relationships, for example. Adults with ADHD can face additional problems - with drugs, crime and unemployment, to name but a few.

Around one third of children grow out of their disorder during adolescence, while others find their problems persist into adult life.[2] The researchers are trying to find out why, with the ultimate aim of improving care and treatment for people with ADHD.

The disorder usually starts in early childhood. Children with ADHD tend to be overactive and impulsive, with a short attention span. They may seem restless, are easily distracted and often fidget constantly. There is no cure for ADHD, though both medical and psychological treatments can help control symptoms.

Dr Kuntsi said: “We are investigating why some children with ADHD grow out of their disorder during adolescence while others do not. Around 100 of the youngsters taking part in our study were diagnosed with ADHD during childhood, the others are their siblings, and pairs of siblings who do not have the disorder as this can also tell us if these markers of ADHD run in families.

“They all took part in a study seven years earlier, so we have detailed information on their development during childhood.

“We are studying how their brains are developing, and how they are functioning, looking for differences between children who recover from their ADHD as they get older and those whose disorder persists. We hope to identify new ways to predict whether or not children are likely to grow out of their ADHD,” she added.

The researchers are leading experts in how risk factors for ADHD change the way the brain functions, and in studying how brain processes and behaviour develop and change in children with ADHD over time. They have successfully completed several large-scale studies on ADHD, including the precursor to this follow-up study which took place using the same children with ADHD 7 years ago. This makes the researchers ideally placed to carry out this new study.
The research is taking place at the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the prestigious Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. The centre houses a state-of-the-art EEG laboratory, which is a key resource for this project.

Alexandra Dedman, Senior Research Evaluation Manager for Action Medical Research, said: “The project aims to benefit the large numbers of children with ADHD who don’t grow out of their disorder. The number of adolescents treated for ADHD, and requiring transition to the care of adult mental health services, is increasing.[3]

“The researchers hope to find new ways to predict whether or not children with ADHD are likely to grow out of their disorder. They hope to learn more about why some children grow out of ADHD, while others do not.

“Ultimately, the researchers hope their work will guide the development of new treatments that will help provide long-term solutions for children with ADHD,” she added.


For further information please contact:

Claudine Powell, Communications Manager,

T 01403 327478



Action Medical Researchis the leading UK-wide medical research charity dedicated to helping babies and children. We know that medical research can save and change children’s lives. For nearly 60 years we have been instrumental in significant medical breakthroughs, including the development of the UK polio vaccine and ultrasound scanning in pregnancy. Today, we continue to find and fund the very best medical research to help stop the suffering of babies and children caused by disease and disability. We want to make a difference in:

  • tackling premature birth and treating sick and vulnerable babies
  • helping children affected by disability, disabling conditions and infections
  • targeting rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children.


[1]Polanczyk G, de Lima MS, Horta BL, Biederman J, Rohde LA. The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164 (6):942-8.

[2]Faraone SV, Biederman J, Mick E. The age-dependent decline of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis of follow-up studies. Psychol Med 2006;36(2):159-65.

[3]Wong IC et al. Cessation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs in the young (CADDY)--a pharmacoepidemiological and qualitative study. Health Technol Assess 2009; 13(50), iii-iv, ix-xi, 1-120.


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