First Genetic Link to ADHD Discovered by Welsh Researchers; LIGHT SHED ON 'COMPLEX AND OFTEN DISTRESSING DISORDER'

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Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY

RESEARCH by Welsh experts will today end the debate about whether ADHD is a real disorder or simply an excuse for children's bad behaviour.

A team from Cardiff University has discovered the first direct genetic link to the condition, which is thought to affect about one in 50 children in the UK.

The findings mean the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can be explained by differences in the brain rather than by such factors as parenting skills or diet. The team identified a number of copy number variants - where small segments of DNA are either duplicated or missing - in children with ADHD.

These variants were twice as common in children with ADHD than those without the condition.

Professor Anita Thapar, professor of child and adolescent psychology at Cardiff University, who led the study, said: "We hope these findings will help overcome the stigma associated with ADHD.

"Too often people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet.

"As a clinician, it was clear to me that this was unlikely to be the case. Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children."

The research, which involved analysing the genomes of 336 children and is published today in The Lancet, found the CNVs on the 16th chromosome, in the same region where genetic variations associated with autism and schizophrenia are found.

Although ADHD is clinically distinct from autism and schizophrenia, the overlap in genetic variations provides strong evidence that ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder, the researchers said.

Prof Thapar said it is not uncommon in medicine to discover different conditions have a shared biology.

She added: "Genetics offers a window into the brain so we can start to look at the underlying biology. …