Brain scans and genetic tests for ADHD diagnoses
The following is a transcript from ABC radio’s AM program.
Tom Nightingale reported this story on Wednesday, October 3, 2012
TONY EASTLEY: A prominent US researcher in the field of diagnosing children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder believes that new technologies are just around the corner that will help identify children with more complex conditions.
The researcher predicts that brain scans and genetic tests will one day provide answers that are currently beyond current medicine.
Already some more sophisticated tests are available in the United States and support groups in Australia want to see them used in Australia as soon as possible.
Tom Nightingale reports.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: For the children and families experiencing ADHD, life can become difficult, tiring or frustrating.
Amanda Hampton is the mother of a 6-year-old boy with the condition in Albany.
AMANDA HAMPTON: Some of these children, the extreme cases, can get very, very violent and aggressive towards people. It can be very hard, not only for the child for the parents as well because it is something that unfortunately is very misunderstood within society.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: She says her son isn’t one of the more extreme cases, and she was surprised at how quickly a support group took shape once she began it earlier this year.
She says the diagnosis of her son was a far longer process.
AMANDA HAMPTON: It was something that I actually brought to the attention of my local GP some time before that and nothing was ever done about it. But I knew as a mother, that there was something, you know, that my child was a just a little different from other children and there was something there.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: Doctor Philip Shaw is with the National Human Genome Research Institute in the US.
He says better methods are 15 or 20 years away.
PHILIP SHAW: Neuroimaging and genetics are extremely exciting research tools. I think what they’re picking up on are very subtle differences in the brains of kids who have ADHD, and some very subtle genetic differences in these kids as well. It’s still not ready for prime time, there is still not a clinical indication for a kid who has ADHD having a brain scan for example. We’re just not quite there yet.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: But Bruce McDonald of the Attention Disorder Association of South Australia says brain scans and genetic tests are already used in the US.
He says some of those doing so are Australian.
BRUCE MCDONALD: Of the people I know who’ve participated in it, they have become more aware of what their condition is and the dietary or medication choices they can make.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: He says the technology is expensive. It costs thousands of dollars, on top of flights and accommodation.
BRUCE MCDONALD: We don’t have it here in Australia at this point. I would dearly love to be at the forefront of getting it in Australia. It is probably quicker, it’s certainly more refined than the information that could be gathered in the past.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: However, the US technology is controversial and Dr Shaw says it’s unproven. He says it’ll be years before that changes because research on children’s brains needs to happen over several years to be reliable.