Etiology and pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): significance of prematurity and perinatal hypoxic-haemodynamic encephalopathy

Acta Paediatr. 1996 Nov;85(11):1266-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1996.tb13909.x.


Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), defined as a disorder of awareness with impulsivity, has lately been characterized as a dysfunction of the striatum (neostriatum = globus pallidus + putamen). This structure is in a unique position of contextual analysis and samples information samples information from almost the entire cortex through its spiny neurons. The etiology is heterogeneous, with genetic as well as lesional factors. Among the latter, pre- and perinatal events are prominent. Advances in the understanding of the role of fetal circulatory insufficiency with loss of autoregulation and systemic hypotension have drawn attention to the vulnerability of watershed regions, including the striatum. Not only circulatory facts are important for this selectivity, however. The anatomical characteristics, with convergent glutaminergic afferent synaptic transmission from almost the entire cortex contribute to the vulnerability in ischemia-induced liberation of glutamate: The striatum becomes the victim of its virtue. Repeated hypoxic-ischemic events are particularly common in prematurity, a fact which seems to explain the high incidence of ADHD in this patient group. The magnitude, of the problem is increasing with the increased survival rate among premature infants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / pathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Corpus Striatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / physiopathology
  • Hypoxia, Brain / pathology
  • Hypoxia, Brain / physiopathology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon