The drug methylphenidate (brand name Ritalin) increased activity in brains of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as those with a reading disorder, researchers at Yale report in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
"During a test of divided attention, Ritalin increased activation in the basal ganglia, a structure of the brain involved in cognition and behavior," said first author Keith Shafritz, former graduate student in the interdepartmental Neuroscience Program at Yale and now a research associate at Duke University Medical Center. "We saw this activation in children with ADHD and those with reading disorder."
The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze the effect of the drug on brain function. Researchers found that adolescents with ADHD or reading disorder who were on placebo (not medicated) had less activation of the basal ganglia than a group of healthy participants. When the same participants received Ritalin, the drug normalized the activation, which relates to the amount of blood flow to a specific brain region in response to a cognitive task.
ADHD is characterized by inattention, but previous neuroimaging studies have examined the brain dysfunction associated with impulsivity. "This is one of few studies that used a test for attention rather than a cognitive test for impulsivity," said Shafritz. "It is also the first study, using fMRI to find that the attention circuitry in the brain is directly affected by ADHD."
Karen N. Peart | EurekAlert!
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