Researchers claim they have found first genetic link for ADHD but have they?

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Researchers reckon they may have found the first direct evidence of a genetic link to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but has it been hyped up?

The BBC reports that scientists from Cardiff University in Wales said that ADHD was not a result of bad parenting but that it originated in the brain, like autism. To come to this conclusion, they analysed DNA from 366 children who had met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and compared it to over 1000 genetic samples from people without the disorder.

What they found was that 15 percent of the ADHD had variations in their DNA compared to 7 percent of the control group. It sounds good when you put it like that. The researchers wrote about their findings in the Lancet under the headline “Study is the first to find direct evidence that ADHD is a genetic disorder” reported the BBC.

“Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children” said Professor Anita Thapar, author of the study.

However, not everyone agrees, including Fergus Walsh, the BBC’s Medical Correspondence.

“I have done the sums and around 15 percent of the ADHD children had the genetic variant and about 7 percent of the control group did not” he wrote in his blog

“Put that another way, it affected one in seven of the ADHD group and one in 14 of those without” he said.

“That also means that seven out of eight of the ADHD group did not have the genetic variant – which hardly justifies Professor Thapar’s confident assertion that ADHD is a genetic disease.

“I put this to Professor Thapar and she was keen to stress that she was not asserting that genes alone were responsible for ADHD but rather a complex mix of genes and environmental factors” wrote Mr Walsh.

The BBC reports Tim Kendall, a director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, as saying a number of factors cause ADHD and blaming it purely on genetics could mean incorrect treatments.

“I’m pretty sure these studies are not going to produce undoubtable evidence that ADHD is caused solely genetically.

“I am saying it’s a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, and the important thing is that we don’t end up thinking this is a biological problem which is only subject to biological treatments like Ritalin.”

Professor Thapar’s study was funded mostly by the Wellcome Trust with some support from the Medical Research Council.

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1 Comment

  1. Alice
    Posted November 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    There is definitely a biological pre-disposition to ADHD, whether you like it or not. I myself had ADHD as a child & it carried on into my teens. I was brought up in a secular environment by a single mother and I was an only child – I spent a lot of time on my own having to do things for myself. My male cousin (approximately 8-9 years younger than me) was brought up in a religious environment, two parents present, housewife mother, 4 younger siblings – he got all the love and attention he could want. Despite the fact we both had vastly different upbringings, we both ended up with ADHD. In both of our cases the only thing that helped was ritalin – we both tried various therapies before resorting to drugs. Several of my other cousins have displayed symptoms as well. I find the notion that ADHD is somehow brought about through a nurture-related issue completely ridiculous: it clearly has a biological root. My family is not the only example of this.

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