Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Lead may be the culprit in ADHD

Date:
January 29, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is among the costliest of behavioral disorders. New research suggests that the culprit may be an old villain -- lead -- and what's more it explains the causal pathway from exposure to disability.

Lead, which is sometimes found in paint in older homes, can get on the hands of children and be ingested. This, or other sources of lead, may trigger an underlying susceptibility to ADHD and change it into a full-blown disorder.
Credit: iStockphoto/Glenn Bo

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is among the costliest of behavioral disorders. Its combination of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity leads to accidental injuries, school failure, substance abuse, antisocial behavior and more. Yet despite nearly a century of study, the disorder’s roots remain mysterious.

Much of modern ADHD research has focused on heritability of the condition, and indeed evidence suggests that genes may account for as much as 70 percent of hyperactivity and inattention in children. But that leaves 30 percent unexplained, so recently the focus has shifted to the environment. What is it that triggers an underlying susceptibility and changes it into a full-blown disorder? New research suggests that the culprit may be an old villain—lead—and what’s more it explains the causal pathway from exposure to disability.

Lead is a neurotoxin. This has been known for a long time, and in fact government regulation drastically reduced environmental lead a generation ago. But regulating automobile fuel and paint didn’t entirely eliminate lead from the environment. It’s found in trace amounts in everything from children’s costume jewelry to imported candies to soil and drinking water. Every American today is exposed to low levels of the metal, and indeed nearly all children have measureable levels of lead in their bodies. According to psychological scientist Joel Nigg of the Oregon Health & Science University, this universal low-level exposure makes lead an ideal candidate for the disorder’s trigger.

This was just a theory until quite recently, but two recent studies now provide strong evidence. The first study compared children formally diagnosed with ADHD to controls, and found that the children with the disorder had slightly higher levels of lead in their blood. This study showed a link only between blood lead and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms, not inattention. But a second study showed a robust link between blood lead and both parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms, including both hyperactivity and attention problems. In both studies, the connection was independent of IQ, family income, race, or maternal smoking during pregnancy.

Nigg offers a causal model for the disabling symptoms associated with ADHD: Lead attaches to sites in the brain’s striatum and frontal cortex, where it acts on the genes in these regions—causing them to turn on or remain inactive. Gene activity shapes the development and activity of these brain regions. By disrupting brain activity, the toxin in turn alters psychological processes supported by these neurons, notably cognitive control. Finally, diminished cognitive control contributes to hyperactivity and lack of vigilance.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joel Nigg. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Endophenotypes, Structure, and Etiological Pathways. Current Directions in Psychological Science, February, 2010

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Lead may be the culprit in ADHD." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100128130227.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, January 29). Lead may be the culprit in ADHD. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100128130227.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Lead may be the culprit in ADHD." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100128130227.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 28, 2014) The World Health Organisation has called for the regulation of electronic cigarettes as both tobacco and medical products. Ciara Lee looks at the impact of the move on the tobacco industry. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) CDC director Tom Frieden says the Ebola outbreak is even worse than he feared. But he also said there's still hope to contain it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How A 'Rule Of Thumb' Could Slow Down Drinking

How A 'Rule Of Thumb' Could Slow Down Drinking

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) A study suggests people who follow a "rule of thumb" when pouring wine dispense less than those who don't have a particular amount in mind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins