Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is estimated to affect 8-12% of school-age children worldwide. ADHD is a complex disorder with significant genetic contributions. However, no single gene has been linked to a significant percentage of cases, suggesting that environmental factors may contribute to ADHD. Here, we used behavioral, molecular, and neurochemical techniques to characterize the effects of developmental exposure to the pyrethroid pesticide deltamethrin. We also used epidemiologic methods to determine whether there is an association between pyrethroid exposure and diagnosis of ADHD. Mice exposed to the pyrethroid pesticide deltamethrin during development exhibit several features reminiscent of ADHD, including elevated dopamine transporter (DAT) levels, hyperactivity, working memory and attention deficits, and impulsive-like behavior. Increased DAT and D1 dopamine receptor levels appear to be responsible for the behavioral deficits. Epidemiologic data reveal that children aged 6-15 with detectable levels of pyrethroid metabolites in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Our epidemiologic finding, combined with the recapitulation of ADHD behavior in pesticide-treated mice, provides a mechanistic basis to suggest that developmental pyrethroid exposure is a risk factor for ADHD.
Keywords: ADHD; dopamine receptor; dopamine transporter; impulsivity; pyrethyroid.