SAN FRANCISCO — Girls and boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder don’t just behave differently. Parts of their brains look different, too. Now, researchers can add the cerebellum to that mismatch.
For boys, symptoms of the disorder tend to include poor impulse control and disruptive behavior. Girls are more likely to have difficulty staying focused on one task. Studies show that those behavioral differences are reflected in brain structure. Boys with ADHD, for example, are more likely than girls to display abnormalities in premotor and primary motor circuits, pediatric neurologist Stewart Mostofsky of Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore has reported previously.
Now, Mostofsky and colleagues have looked at the cerebellum, which plays a role in coordinating movement. He reported the new findings March 25 at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco.
Girls ages 8 to 12 with ADHD showed differences in the volume of various regions of their cerebellum compared with girls without the condition, MRI scans revealed. A similar comparison of boys showed abnormalities, too. But those differences didn’t match what’s seen between girls, preliminary analyses suggest. So far, researchers have looked at 18 subjects in each of the four groups, but plan to quintuple that number in the coming months.
Differences seem most prominent in areas of the cerebellum that control higher-order motor functions, Mostofsky said. Those circuits help regulate attention and plan out behavior, versus directing basics like hand-eye coordination. That could help explain why ADHD affects girls’ behavior differently than boys’.