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Funding to Help ADHD Researchers Find Path to Earlier Diagnosis

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could be better diagnosed in the future through three projects exploring the condition and how it progresses over time that were awarded funding. The Medical Research Council (MRC) has handed £2.4 million to three studies taking place at institutions in England and Wales.

The MRC said it hopes the studies will help to identify more people at risk, enabling doctors to offer intervention at an earlier stage.

ADHD in Girls and Women

Projects that will receive funding include a study led by Queen Mary University of London, which will look at how ADHD affects girls and women in particular. 

It will use existing data from a longitudinal cohort with yearly assessments of ADHD to see if the onset of puberty can be linked to increasing symptoms. 

The team will also collect new data to understand whether hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle are associated with ADHD symptoms.

Elsewhere, researchers at Birkbeck, University of London, and the University of East London, will examine whether increased activity levels and signs of emotional distress in infants who go on to develop ADHD can impact real-world interactions, and if different parental responses could change the impact of ADHD on learning in later life.

The study will work with babies with and without a family history of ADHD, combining the data with new analysis of existing results from older children. 

The data will be collected at home and in a purpose-built "toddler lab", which will be equipped with motion tracking, facial recognition, and wireless wearable neuroimaging to measure brain activity during natural play.

At Cardiff University, a project will examine how ADHD and symptoms of depression can co-develop over time in a bid to understand how the condition can increase the risk of depression. 

It will use two existing UK cohorts with data spanning childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

Earlier Diagnosis

Dr Joanna Latimer, head of neurosciences and mental health at the MRC, part of UK Research and Innovation, said: "Previous research has shown that intervening at an early stage is crucial.

"If ADHD is correctly diagnosed and treated, the negative impacts that it can lead to in some circumstances will be greatly reduced.

"Our hope is that these projects will mean a greater number of people can be offered evidence-based interventions at the right time, so that the condition does not hold children and young adults back from reaching their potential."

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