In the past few years advances in brain imaging technology have allowed scientists to discover many new things about how psychiatric disorders manifest in the brain. One of those discoveries was that, structurally, the brain of a young person with ADHD was different than a so-called “typically developing control.” Now, we have a new finding that comes from the new science of brain connectomics—the study of how the brain’s different regions are functionally connected. Or, more colloquially, how the brain talks to itself to make us, well, work.
University of Michigan researchers, working off of open-source data originally collected by CMI’s own Michael Milham, MD, PhD, for the ADHD-200 Consortium, analyzed scans of over 400 children and adolescents, some with ADHD and some without. They found, in essence, two things. First: the differences in the ADHD brain in terms of connectivity between regions and networks mirrors the differences in terms of structure. And second: ADHD brains, when compared to typically developing brains, seem to have been delayed—to have fallen behind.
How these networks and brain regions match up to ADHD symptoms is truly fascinating. “It is particularly noteworthy that the networks we found to have lagging maturation in ADHD are linked to the very behaviors that are the symptoms of ADHD,” lead author Chandra Sripada tells ScienceDaily. It really seems as though scientists are homing in the underlying causes of the disorder. But it’s also important to note how they are getting there: through ever larger and larger datasets and through sharing.
“Without the database of fMRI images,” Sripada continues, “and the spirit of collaboration that allowed them to be compiled and shared, we would never have reached this point.”