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Ritalin Ups Brain Activity

Stimulant boosts attention circuitry in kids with ADHD and reading disorder

THURSDAY, Dec. 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Ritalin increases brain activity in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and in children with a reading disorder, says a Yale University study in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The study found that both ADHD and reading disorder appear to be associated with a problem in attention circuitry in the brain, and that Ritalin appears to normalize activation of this brain system.

"During a test of divided attention, Ritalin increased activation in the basal ganglia, a structure of the brain involved in cognition and behavior. We saw this activation in children with ADHD and those with reading disorder," study author Keith Shafritz said in a prepared statement.

The study included 27 teens, aged 14 to 18, with either ADHD or reading disorder. They were randomly assigned to received either Ritalin or placebo. They were asked to perform hearing or reading tasks while their brain function was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Children with ADHD or reading disorder who took the placebo had less activation of the basal ganglia than healthy children. But when the same children with ADHD or reading disorder took Ritalin, activation of the basal ganglia was normal.

"This is one of the few studies that used a test for attention rather than a cognitive test for impulsivity. It is also the first study using fMRI to find that the attention circuitry in the brain is directly affected by ADHD," Shafritz said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about ADHD.

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, Dec. 13, 2004
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