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Brain study offers clues to hyperactivity.

Brain study offers clues to hyperactivity

Adults suffering from hyperactivity since childhood display markedly reduced metabolism in brain regions regulating motor activity and attention, according to a report in the Nov. 15 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE.

The finding, obtained with PET scans, points to new avenues of research for hyperactivity investigators, says study director Alan J. Zametkin of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. For instance, scientists can now establish whether stimulant medications--commonly used to treat hyperactivity--increase metabolism in the observed brain areas.

While the report offers clues to the biology of hyperactivity, "it would be premature to conclude that the underlying cause is now established," writes psychiatrist Gabrielle Weiss of Montreal Children's Hospital in an accompanying editorial.

Controversy will undoubtedly persist concerning overdiagnosis of hyperactivity among schoolchildren and over-medication of those so diagnosed, and concerning the family's role in promoting hyperactivity (SN: 6/18/88, p.399).

Zametkin and his colleagues studied 25 adults who had been diagnosed as hyperactive in childhood and who were parents of hyperactive children. None of the hyperactive adults had taken amphetamines as a treatment for their condition. A comparison group of 50 nonhyperactive adults also took part in the project.

The researchers administered PET scans of the brain's glucose metabolism, a measure of its energy use, while volunteers performed an attention task requiring them to press a button upon hearing a tone. Hyperactive adults showed less overall brain metabolism than did controls, with the most pronounced deficits in two areas involved in attention and motor activity.

However, lifelong hyperactives with hyperactive children probably represent only a subgroup of people with the disorder, Weiss notes. Further work must establish whether the results apply to a broad spectrum of hyperactive adults, and whether the same metabolic pattern applies to hyperactive children and perhaps to children with other behavior disorders.

Zametkin, who has initiated PET studies of hyperactive teenagers, says finding suitable volunteers for future studies may prove difficult, since most individuals diagnosed as hyperactive almost immediately receive metabolism-altering stimulants.
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Title Annotation:adults hyperactive since childhood
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 24, 1990
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