Genetic link found for Attention Deficit Disorder with hyperactivity

Although the cause of Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADD-H) remains unknown, researchers have found that it frequently occurs in conjunction with a flaw in a gene that regulates the body’s use to thyroid hormone.

Three to ten percent of children (mostly boys) are estimated to exhibit hyperactivity with attention problems. Children with ADD (with or without hyperactivity) have difficulty focusing their attention and controlling impulses. They tend to be restless and are often disruptive in school.

These researchers found that ADD is especially common among people with a condition called thyroid hormone resistance. In families with a history of this condition, as many as 70 percent of the children inheriting the defective gene exhibited ADD-H.

Ritalin is currently the standard treatment for hyperactivity, but experts are divided as to whether it improves a child’s achievement in school. Some scientists are optimistic that thyroid hormone treatment may help relieve the disorder in some patients.

Since ADD-H probably results from a number of disorders, many researchers suggest that evaluation of each child’s case must include pediatric, neurologic and psychiatric assessments as well as educational testing to evaluate cognitive, speech and language functions. However, now that ADD-H has been linked with thyroid hormone resistance, each patient’s thyroid function should also be evaluated. Resistance to thyroid secretion is treatable, and treatment may reduce or eliminate the need for stimulant medication in some children.


“Attention Deficit Disorder in People with Generalized Resistance to Thyroid Hormone–A New Idea?, New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 328, Number 14, April 8, 1993, pp. 997-1002, 1038-1040.

Published in ERN May/June 1993, Volume 6, Number 3.

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