November 6, 2023

Nationwide population study: threatened spontaneous abortions not a risk factor for ADHD

Threatened spontaneous abortion is defined as vaginal bleeding without cervix dilation within 20 weeks of the onset of pregnancy.

Risk factors include advanced age, obesity, lifestyle (e.g., caffeine intake, lack of physical exercise, stress, cigarette smoking, and alcohol intake), socioeconomic variables, and low serum progesterone. Progesterone is a female hormone that plays a key role in the implantation of the fertilized egg, formation of the placenta, and sustaining a pregnancy.

Threatened spontaneous abortion affects roughly a fifth of pregnancies in the first trimester (first three months). Up to 11 weeks into pregnancy, it seldom leads to spontaneous abortion, but after 11 weeks the likelihood shoots up to as high as half of the affected pregnancies.

Denmark has universal single-payer health insurance. A team of researchers at Aarhus University used their country's comprehensive administrative and healthcare registries to explore any possible association between threatened spontaneous abortion and subsequent ADHD.

That enabled them to analyze a nationwide population of 1,864,221 singletons (as opposed to multiple births such as twins or triplets) live-born from 1979 to 2010. Of these children,59,134 (3.2%) experienced threatened spontaneous abortion within 20 weeks of gestation.

The team adjusted for a series of covariants that could confound outcomes: characteristics of mothers [age at childbirth, pre-pregnancy co-morbidities (somatic, neurologic, psychiatric), healthcare use, medication use, income, education, and employment]; fathers (age on the date of the child's birth, psychiatric co-morbidities a history of epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and ADHD); and children (birth year, birth order).

With these adjustments, they found that children who had experienced threatened spontaneous abortion were a fifth (21%) more likely to have ADHD. But it's exceedingly difficult to account for all confounding variables.

Because of the enormous size of the sample, however, the team was also able to compare 15,875 individuals who experienced threatened spontaneous abortions with an equal number of their paired full siblings who did not, to examine the effect of residual confounding variables. This time, they found no significant differences in the likelihood of ADHD between full siblings.

The authors observed that "controlling for family-shared factors, including genetic makeup and other factors remaining constant between pregnancies and in children's early environments, removed family-shared confounding." They concluded, "After removal, by the sibling design, of time-invariant family-shared confounding, there was no evidence of an increased risk of epilepsy or ADHD among TAB [Threatened Abortion]-affected children."

Elena Dudukina, Erzsébet Horváth-Puhó, HenrikToft Sørensen, and Vera Ehrenstein, “Long-term risk of epilepsy, cerebral palsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children affected by threatened abortion in utero,” International Journal of Epidemiology (2021)dyab069, published online,

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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