Quantitative and molecular genetics of ADHD

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2012:9:239-72. doi: 10.1007/7854_2011_155.


ADHD is a common and highly heritable disorder. Family, twin, and adoption studies confirm a strong genetic influence in risk for ADHD and there has been a great deal of interest in identifying the genetic factors involved. Quantitative genetic studies find that genetic risk for ADHD is continuously distributed throughout the population, that there are both shared and unique genetic influences on inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity, and that ADHD shares genetic risk factors with commonly co-occurring clinical syndromes and traits. ADHD is found at all ages and the underlying genetic architecture is similar across the lifespan. In terms of specific genetic findings, there is consistent evidence of monoamine neurotransmitter involvement with the best evidence coming from genetic markers in or near the dopamine D4 and D5 receptor genes. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified new association findings, including genes involved in cell division, cell adhesion, neuronal migration, and neuronal plasticity. However, as yet, none of these pass genome-wide levels of significance. Finally, recent data confirm an important role for rare copy number variants, including those that are found in schizophrenia and autism. Future work should use genetic association data to determine the nature of the cognitive, neuronal and cellular processes that mediate genetic risks on behaviour, and identify environmental factors that interact with genetic risks for ADHD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / genetics*
  • DNA Copy Number Variations / genetics
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Genetic Association Studies*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Dopamine / genetics
  • Receptors, Serotonin / genetics
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Synaptosomal-Associated Protein 25 / genetics


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Synaptosomal-Associated Protein 25