People with ADHD have smaller brains. Well, that’s what one headline said anyway.
As usual, the media has a hard time turning a large, scientific study into a click-inducing headline with much accuracy. I haven’t had a chance to read anything but various media accounts yet, but the study in question actually appears to show that in a large sample size there are differences in brain structures between children (especially) with ADD, versus kids without Attention Deficit Disorder, or if you prefer, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
What does that mean?
Well, for one thing, it does NOT mean that people with ADD have smaller brains.
What it does mean, is that some physical differences in the brain are detectable in large sample sizes.
What does THAT mean?
It means that there likely is a physical cause (or predisposition) of ADD / ADHD. In other words, it is not just all in your head, although we already knew that. It looks like there may be some connection between ADD and actual brain structure rather than just brain chemistry, and that is interesting.
That big sample sizes thing is not a throwaway, it’s important.
Researchers stated that they could NOT detect a difference in size among individuals, or even among small sample sets. It’s only when you take a LOT of brain scans of people with ADD and statistically average them out (more or less) that you can compare that number to a LOT of brain scans of people without ADD and certain sections in the brain appear smaller overall.
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What does THAT mean!
Well, that means that brain size is not a good way to diagnose or detect ADD because it won’t vary enough from normal for any one individual. It does however, mean that more study would be useful to see what else, if anything differs in an ADHD brain.
One other interesting feature of the study is that most of these size differences go away with age. In other words, a lot of kids out grow ADHD, which has also been known. However, what makes this interesting is the idea that it is simply a later brain growth that triggers ADD. Think of it like how different kids hit puberty at different ages.
Unfortunately, unlike being a “late bloomer” means being smaller for an extra year or two, this requires several years to catch up.
I’ll read the actual study when I can, and get back with some more details, but in the meantime, you can check out news about it online if you are interested.