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Fascinating Study Links 5 Disorders

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has just concluded a fascinating study that could revolutionize how doctors look at autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. In their study, they have found that these five disorders share a common genetic root.

As study leader Dr. Jordan Smoller told NBC News, “We have been able to discover specific genetic variants that seem to overlap among disorders that we think of as very clinically different.”

They found markers that were more common in people with one of these disorders than with others. They also found mutations in two genes that help to govern the balance of calcium in the brain cells.

Scientists came to their conclusions after looking at the genetic code of more than 33,000 patients with mental disorders and 27,888 patients without these issues. It was actually the most comprehensive study on genetic links to psychiatric illness that was ever conducted.

Dr Smoller explained some of the ramifications of the study. As he said, “Significant progress has been made in understanding the genetic risk factors underlying psychiatric disorders. Our results provide new evidence that may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes.”

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Writing Difficulties and ADHD

A recent study revealed that children, and especially girls, with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to have writing difficulties. These problems include poor spelling, grammar and handwriting.

As parents of ADHD kids already know, difficulties in reading or math are common signs for teachers when it comes to identifying the disorder. However, “written-language disorder is kind of overlooked,” according to study author Dr. Slavica Katusic.

She went on to explain that writing “is a critical skill for academic success, social and behavioral well-being.” She added that if writing problems aren’t identified early on, it can affect children into their adult years.

Specialists who were not involved in the study have confirmed the logic of the results. Annette Majnemer studied handwriting in kids with ADHD at McGill University in Montreal. She agreed that many children suffering from ADHD have difficulties in the field.

“It might be partially the fact that they’re inattentive and distractible and hyperactive,” she said, adding that other possible causes are problems with motor skills and coordination.

Dr. Katusic stated that genetics may also contribute to ADHD and writing problems. No matter what the cause, Katusic explains that treatment and early identification of learning disabilities can contribute greatly to children’s lives. It is important to identify all possible learning problems in a child before planning a treatment, she said.

“When parents notice something or teachers notice something, kids have to be treated not only for ADHD, but they have to be tested to see if they have other learning problems,” she said. “Clinicians and the teachers have to emphasize that the testing has to be done for everything, every kind of learning disability. It has to be identified early and the treatment has to start early.”

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Pesticides Linked with ADHD: The Latest Findings

A new study, conducted by Brenda Eskenazi at the University of California at Berkely, and published in the August 19th issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found fascinating results about ADHD.  They point to a connection between prenatal levels of exposure to metabolites of organophosphate pesticides and an increase risk for ADHD in children.

The researchers, examining 300 children enrolled in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, found that pesticide exposure during pregnancy didn’t significantly increase the risk of ADHD for children ages 3.5, but did seem to be highly associated with children around 5.

In another study, published in Pediatrics by Dr. Marc Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that these pesticides may increase the risk of ADHD in children ages 8-15 years.

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ADHD – Only for the Younger Kids in the Class?

Two new interesting U.S. studies point to one of the ways that children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – age as compared to peers.  It appears that children who are younger than their classmates tend to get the diagnosis more often than do their older peers.

The first study, by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota, compared children who were born just before the kindergarten eligibility date and those born just after the eligibility date.  They found a 25% higher rate of ADHD diagnosis in those who were younger in the class.  They used three separate data sources and looked at tens of thousands of children aged seven to 17.

When a doctor evaluates whether a child may have ADHD, one of the frequent questions that is asked is if the behavior seems to be exhibited in their child more often than in others.

The other study looked at 12,000 children by a Michigan State University economist Todd Elder.  It found that the youngest child in the class is 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than is the oldest child in the class.

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