A review of the biological bases of ADHD: what have we learned from imaging studies?

Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2003;9(3):184-95. doi: 10.1002/mrdd.10079.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common and impairing neuropsychiatric disorder with onset at preschool age. Although a significant amount of progress has been made investigating the neurobiology of this disorder, its precise etiology still remains unclear. Converging evidence from studies of the neuropharmacology, genetics, neuropsychology, and neuroimaging of ADHD imply the involvement of fronto-striatal circuitry in ADHD. However, while it does appear that poor inhibitory control and the deficits in fronto-striatal circuitry associated with it are central, there is evidence to suggest that more posterior cerebral areas are also implicated in this disorder. Anatomical studies suggest widespread reductions in volume throughout the cerebrum and cerebellum, while functional imaging studies suggest that affected individuals activate more diffuse areas than controls during the performance of cognitive tasks. The future impact of new MR imaging methodologies on the field is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / genetics*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / metabolism
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / metabolism
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • DAT1 protein, S cerevisiae
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DRD4 protein, human
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • NET1 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • calcyon
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dopamine