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ADHD genetic link found

30th September 2010

Scientists have found what they believe is the first direct evidence of a genetic link to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Researchers from Cardiff University say attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – thought to be suffered by 2% of UK children – is a brain problem like autism and not down to bad parenting.

The study, published in The Lancet, analysed stretches of DNA from 366 children who had been diagnosed with the disorder and compared the genetic samples with DNA from 1,047 people without the condition.

They found that 15% of the ADHD group had large and rare variations in their DNA compared with 7% in the control group.

Professor Anita Thapar, who led the study, said: “We found that, compared with the control group, the children with ADHD have a much higher rate of chunks of DNA that are either duplicated or missing.

“This is really exciting - because it gives us the first direct genetic link to ADHD.

“We have looked at lots of potential risk factors in the environment - such as parenting or what happens before birth - but there isn't the evidence to say they're linked to ADHD.”

The Cardiff team hope the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Medical research Council, will pave the way toward new treatments and also address the issue of stigma attached to ADHD.

ADHD support group ADDIS said the findings were exciting and will help them deal “more confidently” with sceptics.

Chief executive Andrea Bilbow said: “We've always known there was a genetic link - through studies and anecdotally.”

 

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