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October 18th 2000 - 20:30 BST

ADHD Test Breakthrough?

The use of Brain SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) Imaging for ADHD and other mental disorders is not that new (see our research article Brain Scan Shows ADHD) but it's appearance on the UK's BBC Tomorrow's World program on Wednesday night, October 18th, will hopefully go a long way towards showing the general public that ADHD is a real medical condition and not just a passing fad as some believe.

The section of the program on ADHD was presented by senior Tomorrow's World presenter, Peter Snow. The Clifford family from the USA were interviewed and the symptoms of ADHD were briefly discussed, centring around the son, Colby, who suffers with ADHD. Peter Snow went on to highlight the fact that a physical diagnostic procedure is still not available and there is some debate about the way diagnosis' are arrived at. He went on to say that "...what is not in doubt is that at it's most destructive, ADHD has the power to tear lives apart." Then, whilst standing outside a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where the tests are being conducted, Peter held up a special container of "..a radio active imaging agent that for the first time will allow us to see the specific function of the brain that may just reveal the presence of ADHD." He explained how the agent, which though not mentioned by name, we assumed to be "Altropane", when injected, can show up Dopamine activity in the subject's brain when scanned. Clear scans were shown of a non ADHD sufferer and one of someone with the condition. The latter showed how much brighter the area in question was against the former, clearly showing the enhanced activity. This showed how the scan, "Spect Imaging", looks for Dopamine Transporter molecules in the brain. The chemical in the brain, Dopamine, has long been connected with the control of our behaviour and emotions. The theory is that too high levels of these molecules which recycle the Dopamine, thus preventing it from fully carrying out it's calming function, can affect a person's ability to control their behaviour and other emotions as in sufferers of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Though not mentioned in the program, Dr. Daniel G. Amen has been working with SPECT Imaging since 1991 and more information can be found on the Amen Clinic's Website by clicking here.

Russel Barkley spoke on Tomorrow's World saying, "What this test will be able to do is first of all give us a valid diagnostic test for this disorder, it's also going to help us sub type this disorder so we can match certain medications to certain kinds of ADHD. In the long run it may well allow us to distinguish people who may have the valid disorder, the real condition, from people who might just have behaviour problems."

The program concluded with Julie Clifford, the mother of Colby, the boy featured, saying "...I think that if the research is successful it will prove that ADHD is actually a disease, it's not poor parenting and that the research will prove helpful in diagnosing other children and giving them what they need to be successful."

Simon Hensby for

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