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ADHD Is Not a "One-Size-Fits-All" Disorder

ADHD Is Not a "One-Size-Fits-All" Disorder

There is no “one size fits all” approach in treating ADHD, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1

The research suggests there are varying versions of ADHD, and like multiple subtypes of cancer, ADHD encompasses an entire family of disorders.

In determining whether data-driven neuropsychological subtypes could be discerned in children with and without the disorder, the researchers compared test results for several cognitive skills among a large sampling of ADHD patients and a control group. They found patients can be subcategorized depending on their deficits and relative strengths, showing unique subgroups among all children with ADHD.

Lead author of the study, Damien Fair, PhD, and colleagues, suggest that new diagnostic methods beyond DSM are needed: “The problem with this [DSM] approach is that it often relies on secondary observations of parents or teachers, where even if the descriptions are accurate, any given child may be behaving similarly, but for different reasons.”

Dr Fair is Assistant Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience, Psychiatry, at the Advanced Imaging Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). Together with colleagues, Dr Fair and Joel Nigg, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Pediatrics at OHSU, suggest new approaches will highlight various versions of the disease, each with different impacts.

The data “highlights ways to recognize such individual variability and shows promise that we might be able to identify why any given child presents with ADHD, thus allowing for future examinations of more personalized treatments.” Consequently a “shift in thinking” toward a proper diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of the disorder should be the focus of research. In this video, posted with permission from OHSU, Dr Fair describes the new research.

1. Fair DA, Bathula D, Nikolas MA, Nigg JT. Distinct neuropsychological subgroups in typically developing youth inform heterogeneity in children with ADHD. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 2; [Epub ahead of print].

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