Brain Scans Diagnose ADHD

The diagnosis of ADHD has remained controversial despite the incredible amount of articles and books that are currently in circulation. In some circles, ADHD is a made-up diagnosis for lazy children who need discipline. ADHD is a favorite target of many pundits and skeptics. In response to all of this skepticism there has been a strong desire for researchers and clinicians to find objective tests that can aid in the diagnosis.

The idea that ADHD is a clinical diagnosis based on data gathering from multiple sources and a patient interview has been very disappointing to many people. The entire field of psychiatry is always looking for more objective tests to help in diagnosing patients and potentially guiding in the kind of treatment that is rendered. There are currently certain standardized psychological tests that can be done to help with the diagnostic process. These tests can be very helpful in clarifying confusing diagnostic dilemmas.

One of the most intriguing ideas is that of doing brain scans to look for certain patterns that might be diagnostic of certain psychiatric disorders. There are numerous brain scan methods that are used in ADHD research. These include positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI.) In research studies, ADHD children have shown smaller brain volumes in specific parts of the brain- frontal lobes, white matter, and cerebellum. However, it is essential to keep in mind that these are research study results only. In my opinion these are still only research tools and cannot and should not be used to diagnose ADHD in a specific child or teenager. There is an urge among some to use these scans to make specific medication recommendations. The current data and evidence does not support the use of bran scans either for diagnostic purposes or for treatment recommendations.