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ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may be caused by Genetics and Environmental Toxins

May 1st, 2006

ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may be caused by Genetics and Environmental Toxins

Lead Paint

Researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center believe that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is possibly caused by both genetics and environment.  The study will be first presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting today, May 1st in San Francisco.

“This study shows that certain groups of children have an increased sensitivity to environmental exposures,” said the studies lead author, Tanya Froehlich, M.D., a physician at Cincinnati Children’s. “More studies like this one are needed to help set exposure standards that adequately protect the most susceptible members of society.”


The researchers in this study looked how lead exposure could play a part in ADHD.  They also wanted to look at the genetics and the variation of the DRD4 dopamine receptor gene.  Previous research has found that the DRD4 gene regulates brain dopamine levels which help for a child to have attention and cognition.  Changes in the DRD4 gene have been shown to occur with ADHD.

Lead exposure has shown the children can be impaired on executive function, planning, memory span and ability to change plans along the way.  In this study, the researchers see that some children are more sensitive genetically to the exposure of lead. 


“In addition, increasing lead exposure impaired performance in both planning and attentional flexibility in boys more than in girls. This suggests that, for these executive functions, boys are more vulnerable to the adverse affects of lead exposure,” said Dr. Froehlich. “This is also consistent with the established fact that boys have higher rates of ADHD than girls.”

The researchers measured 172 children for lead exposure in the blood.  They took blood samples during infancy and in early childhood.  When the children turned 5 year old, the researchers gave a standardized test to measure for ADHD.


“This study offers a model for examining how genes and environmental toxins interact to shape ADHD, and demonstrates that important effects may be obscured or over-generalized if the joint contributions of these factors are not considered,” said Dr. Froehlich. “Such studies can help us understand the underlying causes of neuropsychological disorders, and why certain groups may be more prone to ADHD than others.”

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

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