MONDAY, Dec. 2, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- A newer MRI method can
detect low iron levels in the brains of children with
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The method could help doctors and parents make better informed
decisions about medication, a new study says.
Psychostimulant drugs used to treat ADHD affect levels of the
brain chemical dopamine. Because iron is required to process
dopamine, using MRI to assess iron levels in the brain may provide
a noninvasive, indirect measure of the chemical, explained study
author Vitria Adisetiyo, a postdoctoral research fellow at the
Medical University of South Carolina.
If these findings are confirmed in larger studies, this
technique might help improve ADHD diagnosis and treatment,
according to Adisetiyo.
The method might allow researchers to measure dopamine levels
without injecting the patient with a substance that enhances
imaging, she said.
ADHD symptoms include hyperactivity and difficulty staying
focused, paying attention and controlling behavior. The American
Psychiatric Association reports that ADHD affects 3 percent to 7
percent of school-age children.
The findings were scheduled for presentation Monday at the
annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in
The researchers used an MRI technique called magnetic field
correlation imaging to measure iron levels in the brains of 22
children and teens with ADHD and another group of 27 children and
teens without the disorder (the "control" group).
The scans revealed that the 12 ADHD patients who'd never been
treated with psychostimulant drugs such as Ritalin had lower brain
iron levels than those who'd received the drugs and those in the
The lower iron levels in the ADHD patients who'd never taken
stimulant drugs appeared to normalize after they took the
No significant differences in patients' brain iron levels were
detected through blood tests or a more conventional method of
measuring brain iron called MRI relaxation rates, the study authors
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically
considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about