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ADHD linked to genetic variants


Research has indicated that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a genetic condition.

A study completed by Cardiff University scientists linked the disorder with differences in the brain rather than parenting skills or diets.

Around one in 50 UK children is affected by ADHD, making them restless, fidgety, impulsive and easily distracted. This can lead to problems for them at school.

The Cardiff team discovered that rare copy number variants, where DNA segments are either duplicated or missing, were twice as common among ADHD children than those without the condition.

The new research, which has been published in the Lancet, revealed an overlap between affected DNA segments and chromosomes that have been linked with autism and schizophrenia in the past.

Researchers drew particular attention to a region on chromosome 16, which has already been associated with a host of psychiatric disorders and contains genes that can affect the development of the brain.

Despite children being statistically more likely to have ADHD if one of their parents has it, there had been no direct evidence before this study to show it was a genetic disorder.

Professor Anita Thapar, from Cardiff’s Department of Psychological Medicine and Neurology, said: “We hope that these findings will help overcome the stigma associated with ADHD.”



Readers' comments (5)

  • ‘ADHD’ is a subject I have followed for some time, not as a scientist, but as a humanitarian. In a world where drugs have been singled out as a major cause of social decline, I couldn’t understand why children and now adults were being advised to take amphetamine-like drugs for a so-called mental illness that had never been scientifically proven.

    Since 1987 when ‘ADHD’ was literally voted into existence by a show of hands, there have been various attempts to justify the label and to justify the drugging regime that goes hand-in-hand with the label.

    Both the Children’s Minister Sarah Teather and the government body Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) have raised concerns that labelling children with Special Educational Needs, which includes the ‘ADHD’ labelling practice, is being used to excuse poor childhood behaviour.

    Boisterous, argumentative or disruptive behaviour has been redefined as a mental illness, and the latest theory of ‘genetic faults’ is just another psychiatric smoke screen that feeds the profit-driven psychiatric industry. From 2000 to 2009, the combined NHS spending in England, Scotland and Wales to chemically subdue ‘ADHD’ candidates was just under £250 million.

    ‘ADHD’ consists of a list of emotional and behavioural characteristics that have been given another meaning by psychiatrists, and pronounced as scientific, when in reality, it is a psychiatric opinion about the way another is conducting himself or herself. Any one of us can have an opinion about the way someone behaves, but we do not claim our opinions as scientific fact. Psychiatrists however, do.

    Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus, Dr Thomas Szasz, says, “There is no blood or other biological test to ascertain the presence or absence of a mental illness, as there is for most bodily diseases. If such a test were developed, then the condition would cease to be a mental illness and would be classified, instead, as a symptom of a bodily disease.”

    The criteria used to diagnose ‘ADHD’ are representative of normal behaviour. ‘Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in homework, work, or other activities’, ‘often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly’, ‘often has difficulties organising tasks and activities’, ‘is often forgetful in daily activities’, ‘often talks excessively’ and ‘often has difficulty awaiting turn’ are NOT representative of ‘genetic faults’.

    Children and adolescents are not experimental animals. They are human beings who have every right to expect protection, care, love and the chance to reach their full potential in life. They will only be denied this from within the verbal and chemical straitjackets that are psychiatry’s labels and drugs.

    Yours faithfully

    Brian Daniels
    National Spokesperson
    Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)

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  • Useful findings - dangerously biased interpretation ! The fact that behaviour patterns are encoded genetically does NOT prove that the genes DETERMINED the ADHD : it proves equally well that we are all in some measure responsible for forming our own character. Sartre played with the idea philosophically, and the famous neurobiologist and specialist in psychosomatic illness, Dr Joachim Bauer, establishes its scientific credentials.

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  • Having worked as a teaching assistant in primary schools and then training as a secondary school teacher (before returning to nursing), I have experienced firsthand the behaviour and social difficulties children with ADHD experience. I disagree wholeheartedly with the comment that it is 'normal' behaviour and the implication that management of this 'disorder' is a waste of money. For those children with this problem, it is has massive implications for relationships, their own and those of theiir parents who often find it difficult to cope. It massively affects their education leading to underachievement. I recently worked for the police as a custody nurse and a very large majority of young males and females in custody for alcohol, drug and social disorder reasons had a history of 'mismanaged' or late diagnosed ADHD and also Aspergers and Autism. This is a tragedy and anything that can be done to help these people achieve their true potential should be done. If it is genetic, then they can't help it - unlike smokers and obese people who bring it upon themselves.

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  • Also as a professional working with adults & teenagers with ADHD. I agree entirely with what Victoria is saying.

    One thing I would like to point out, however, is that the first commenter Brian Daniels represents "The Citizens Commission for Human Rights" which is an organisation run by the Scientologists & that his opinions are based on their anti psychiatry beliefs.

    I think in the interests of openness & fairness this should be made clear to the readers of this website.

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  • As a paediatric nurse who has 3 children with ADHD, my eldest also Aspergers' Syndrome. I am saddened to hear the Scientologists are yet again trying to imply that psychiatric disorders are not real illnesses.

    If ADHD did not exist them we would have very few creative people. Those with ADHD rarely give up if they fail at something - they are not put off but go on to try something new with just as much enthusiasm.

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