November 14, 2023

Two nationwide population studies explore relationship between maternal hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and ADHD in offspring

Two new studies, examining entire nationwide populations on opposite sides of the world, have just reported findings on the association between hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) and subsequent ADHD in off spring. HDP includes chronic hypertension, pre-eclampsia, pre-eclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension, and gestational hypertension.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby and can be fatal. This range of conditions affects more than one in twenty pregnancies worldwide. HDP hampers permeability of the placenta, which may reduce delivery of blood-borne oxygen and nutrients to the fetus, potentially affecting brain development. ADHD could thus theoretically emerge as a neurodevelopmental outcome.

To what extent is this borne out in national-wide population studies? Both Taiwan and Sweden have single-payer national health insurance systems that systematically track virtually every resident. One study team used the Taiwan National Health Insurance research database to examine a cohort of 877,233 children born between 2004 and 2008. The other study team used the Swedish national registers to explore a cohort of 1,085,024 individuals born between 1987 and 1996.

The Taiwanese study adjusted for the following covariate/confounders: year of birth, fetal sex, paternal age, maternal age, family income, urbanization level, maternal diabetes diagnosis, preterm birth, small for gestational age, and parental psychiatric disorders. The Swedish study adjusted for the calendar year of birth, offspring sex, maternal age, parity, height, body mass index, smoking, presentational diabetes, parental educational level, occupation, and marital status. In the Taiwanese population, children of mothers with hypertensive disorders during pregnancy were about 20% more likely to develop ADHD than those of mothers without such disorders. There was no significant difference between chronic hypertension and pregnancy-induced hypertension/pre-eclampsia.

In the Swedish population, children of mothers with hypertensive disorders during pregnancy were about 10% more likely to develop ADHD than those of mothers without such disorders. But the Swedish study also went a step further. It is incredibly difficult to identify all significant confounding variables. But if you have a large enough study population, one can examine the effect of restricting the analysis to siblings within the same families. In that way, one can control in large measure for familial confounding “ shared environment and heredity. In the subsample of siblings “ 1,279 exposed to HDP versus 1,607 not exposed “ those exposed to outerwear were 9% more likely to develop ADHD, but this outcome was not statistically significant.

Noting the reduced statistical power of the subsample, the authors nonetheless concluded, the magnitude of these associations might be too weak(for ADHD in particular) to be considered an important risk factor at the level of the general population  Moreover, in a separate cohort of 285,901 Swedish men born between 1982 and 1992 who attended assessments for military conscription, mildly lower cognitive scores among those exposed to HDP in uteri vanished altogether (mean difference = 0) when limited to comparisons between full siblings (1,917 exposed versus 2,044 not exposed).

Judith S. Brand, Deborah A. Lawlor, Henrik Larsson, Scott Montgomery, "Association Between Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes Among Offspring," JAMAPediatrics, published online ahead of print,

Kuan-Ru Chen, Tsung Yu, Lin Kang, Yueh-Ju Lien, Pao-Lin Kuo, "Childhood neurodevelopmental disorders and maternal hypertensive disorder of pregnancy," Developmental Medicine & ChildNeurology (2021), published online ahead of print,

"Preeclampsia," Mayo Clinic,

Related posts

No items found.

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