Could MRI’s on Preschoolers Lead to Early ADHD Intervention?

New research reveals brain differences in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Experts at the Kennedy Krieger Institute used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of preschool children who exhibited symptoms of ADHD. Although many studies have been conducted on older children with ADHD, the researchers wanted to determine if ADHD could be screened at a younger age in order to provide early intervention and treatment. ADHD affects nearly 2 million children, and results in social dysfunction, lack of impulse control and poor academic performance. Many children who suffer with ADHD develop symptoms at an early age, and are usually deemed hyperactive or inattentive by their parents or preschool teachers. The researchers looked at children, ages four and five, with and without ADHD symptoms to determine if there was a difference in their brain development. They examined the basal ganglia and cortical ganglia and discovered significant differences in the region of the brain known as the caudate nucleus. The children with symptoms of ADHD had lower caudate volumes than those children without symptoms. The caudate nucleus is located in the region of the brain that is responsible for motor and cognitive control.

“Clinically, this abnormal brain development sets the stage for the symptoms of ADHD that contribute to cognitive challenges and problems in school,” said Dr. Mark Mahone, lead author and Director of Neuropsychology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD. “Earlier identification and treatment of children presenting with attention problems in the preschool years may minimize the impact of ADHD in the long-term.” The researchers will track the brain development of the participants for many years in order to identify variances in this region over time. Being able to identify which children are at risk for developing ADHD could potentially allow them to receive treatment before they experience significant social and academic challenges.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Alison Peters

    Alison Peters

    June 15th, 2011 at 1:22 AM

    That is excellent news! The sooner they can thwart the challenges of ADHD with treatment and therapy the better.

    I would love to know why there are so many cases of ADHD diagnosed now when you simply never heard of it a few decades ago. I know its original discovery was in the early 1900’s but this epidemic is a mystery to me.

  • Jordan


    June 15th, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    Seems a little extreme to me

  • danny


    June 15th, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    earlier detection is good but is the method safe for such young kids? remember having read about how a lot of methods of diagnosis and treatment are ill suited to kids…



    June 15th, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    The earlier a disorder is detected and treated,the better it…irrespective of anything else.And regarding concern of the comment poster above me here-I’m sure we have safe enough methods to actually go about diagnosing kids without causing them any harm in the process.

  • kane


    June 16th, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    Has anyone given any thought to how radiation or whatever is used in MRIs would affect the health of such young children?

  • gabriel f.

    gabriel f.

    June 18th, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    MRIs are expensive aren’t they? Dragging kids to hospitals to get them checked for ADHD every time they show a bit of hyperactivity is just going to run up very costly and unnecessary medical bills.

    Perhaps we should put this on the back burner and leave it there until America smartens up and doesn’t treat health as a business but as an undeniable right for our citizens instead.

  • Eadie Spence

    Eadie Spence

    June 18th, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Hopefully this will silence the naysayers who claim that ADHD doesn’t exist now we have actual physical evidence we can show them. This proves there are brain differences in children with ADHD that don’t appear in the normal ones.

    When that controversy can be put to a stop to once and for all, we can start progressing more speedily towards discovering the best ways of treating these vulnerable children faster and sooner.

  • Harrison Smith

    Harrison Smith

    June 18th, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    @danny–MRI is perfectly safe and a very useful diagnostic tool. There are no ill effects from using it unless you have shards of metal in your body for some reason. That could cause serious problems. Of course, the only ones that issue relates to having either been in gunfights or have had accidents involving metal I guess.

    For the vast majority of us having a routine MRI isn’t dangerous.

  • Dylan Snider

    Dylan Snider

    June 19th, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    @kane- I looked it up. MRI uses magnets, not radiation. It’s been used on infants with no problems for about two decades, and has gotten a thumbs up from the FDA as well.

    As long as you’re not carrying anything metallic, you’ll be perfectly safe. The only harm an MRI can do to you is because of the extremely loud sound it makes. You are given headphones to block the noise.

    So yes, plenty of thought was given to this decades ago.

  • Susannah R.

    Susannah R.

    June 19th, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    @Jordan. How else do you propose we look at the brains of a child to discover if they have ADHD and not purely hyperactive and full of energy?

    If you want to volunteer to have your skull cracked open so they can look at your think box, I know some
    researchers who would gladly take you on. ;)

  • J.H. Cole

    J.H. Cole

    June 22nd, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    @Alison Peters-The majority of these epidemics are caused by one of two things. The first is the public being more aware of the condition, like you said. It was only ‘discovered’ in the early 1900s. Countless people would have also had it before a label was given to ADHD.

    The second imho is overzealous, outdated and also inaccurate diagnostic methods. Using MRI is vastly more accurate and the more it’s used the more reliable the ADHD statistics will be.

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