January 10, 2023

Danish population study: Sex chromosome abnormalities increase risk of ADHD

Sex chromosome abnormalities are replication errors that produce an atypical number of sex chromosomes.  Most people have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46.  One pair is called the sex chromosome pair.  It is either XX (for biological females) or XY (for biological males).  The term 46,XY refers to a typical biological male and the term 46,XX refers to the typical biological female.  

In rare cases a person may have only 45 chromosomes due to having only one sex chromosome, the X chromosome (45,X).  Some people, rarely, have an extra sex chromosome and are designated: 47,XXX, 47,XXY, and 47,XYY.  These rare sex chromosome differences occur in between 0.5 and 1.3 per 1,000 livebirths. 

These differences have physical manifestations. For example, 45,X is associated with shorter height and abnormal development of the ovaries. The other three are associated with greater height. 47,XXX is associated with premature ovarian failure and 47,XXY with low testosterone.

A Danish and U.S. team used data from Denmark’s single-payer universal health insurance system to assess the association of these sex chromosome differences with the prevalence of ADHD.

They performed a case-cohort study. The source population was all 1,657,449 singleton births in Denmark between May 1, 1981, and Dec 31, 2008. The cases consisted of all 93,608 individuals in this population who were diagnosed with any of five psychiatric disorders, including ADHD. These were compared with a cohort consisting of 50,615 individuals randomly selected from the source population.

The combined population prevalence of these four sex chromosome differences was 1.45 per 1,000. 47,XXY was the most common, at 1.23 per 1,000, followed by 47,XYY at .82 per 1,000, then 47,XXX at .66 per 1,000. 45,X was by far the least common, at less than .23 per 1,000.

All four conditions were associated with significantly increased risk of ADHD:

  • 47,XXY roughly doubled the risk. 
  • 47,XXX increased the risk 2.5-fold.
  • 47,XYY more than quadrupled the risk.
  • 45,X more than sextupled the risk.

These data are intriguing because we know there  are sex differences in the prevalence of ADHD but the causes of those differences are unknown.  

Given that ADHD is more common in boys than girls, one would have predicted that having an extra Y chromosome would increase risk for ADHD.  That is the case here but we also see that having an extra X chromosome also increases risk, which means that the impact of sex chromosomes on ADHD is not straightforward.

Xabier Calle Sánchez, Simone Montalbano, Morteza Vaez, Morten Dybdahl Krebs, Jonas Byberg-Grauholm, Preben B Mortensen, Anders D Børglum, David M Hougaard, Merete Nordentoft, Daniel H Geschwind, Alfonso Buil, Andrew J Schork, Wesley K Thompson, Armin Raznahan, Dorte Helenius, Thomas Werge, and Andrés Ingason, “Associations of psychiatric disorders with sex chromosome aneuploidies in the Danish iPSYCH2015 dataset: a case-cohort study,” The Lancet Psychiatry (2023) 10(2):129-138, https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(23)00004-4.

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024