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New Study Will Investigate ADHD in Premature Children

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Researchers from the University of Nottingham, in the United Kingdom, have started a new study, involving the families from the area who have children that were born prematurely. The research team is trying to better understand the connection between premature birth and the onset of ADHD. Approximately 200 children between the ages of 8 and 10 are needed for the study. Subjects will be picked after the parents complete a questionnaire. Children will be picked according to their level of attention skills, ranging from poor, to average, to good.

The second group of subjects will be selected by the lead author of the study, Jennifer Tellet, a PhD student from the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham. She will select prematurely born children who volunteer for the study, based on the reports of local neonatal intensive care units.  According to previous studies, children who are born more than eight weeks earlier than their normal term have a 50% increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD, when compared to children born at term. Tellet hopes that hew new study, name PATCH (Preterm Birth and Attention in Children) will increase the understanding and diagnosis of ADHD.

Precedent studies have shown that prematurely born children show different symptoms than those most commonly associated with ADHD. They show symptoms such as easy distraction, daydreaming, etc., rather than being hyperactive. These symptoms can have a major impact on their development and academic achievements, while also affecting their social relationships and behavior. Due to the fact that prematurely born children suffer from a less disruptive form of ADHD, they are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.

The research team is planning to assess the attention skills of the subjects in order to better understand exactly what difficulties each children faces. In order to do so, the research team will test the children and identify the specific area of weakness for each subject. These weakness areas include memorizing information and attention span. All of their tests will involve specially designed games. Children will play these games while connected to an EEG (electroencephalography) device that measures the brain’s electrical activity. This method allows both parents and children to view their own brain waves, while also providing important information for the researchers.

The study will be supervised by Dr Lucy Cragg, who is an expert in brain development. She notes that the importance of the study is that it allows researchers and physicians to better understand the difficulties through which children suffering from ADHD have to go through and also reveal some of the causes of the onset of the disorder. Cragg adds that their focus will be on the differences found between prematurely born children and the children born at full term.

The research team says that the results of the study will help understand this less disruptive form of ADHD, while also being able to reduce its negative impact. This will help both the family of the children and their physicians. The long term goal of the study is to discover a way to improve the social performance of the children.