Anne B. Arnett, Ph.D.

Fellow In Child & Adolescent ADHD

Project Details


Mark Stein, Ph.D. A.B.P.P.
Scott Murray, Ph.D.


University of Washington


Stability of Neurophysiological Biomarkers of ADHD

Project Title

Stability of Neurophysiological Biomarkers of ADHD

Project Summary

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder associated with significant, long-term functional impairment. Although children with ADHD evidence behavioral and cognitive differences as early as 15 months, the disorder is typically not diagnosed until school age 2, after academic, social and emotional problems have already begun. Earlier diagnosis would allow for preventative interventions to minimize functional impairments that accumulate over time. Moreover, the increased potential to improve outcomes through early intervention during sensitive periods of neural plasticity has already been demonstrated in autism spectrum disorder and in animal models of other neurodevelopmental disorders . Objective, reliable biomarkers for ADHD are critical for identifying at-risk young children, increasing specificity of treatment targets, and developing precision medicine care that would result in improved outcomes. The proposed research will lay critical groundwork for identifying reliable biomarkers of ADHD using low-cost, non-invasive methods: scalp electrophysiology (EEG) and event related potentials (ERP). Neurophysiological, neuroimaging and neuropsychological research supports characterization of multiple biomarkers for ADHD, each consisting of a profile of neurocognitive and behavioral indicators. In line with this, the fellow has already identified three ERP profiles that are sensitive (100%) and specific (72%) to ADHD, and indicative of deficits across three discrete stages of attention processing. KTGF funding for this proposal will facilitate a critical step toward establishing biomarkers for ADHD by evaluating the stability of neurophysiological indices and multi-method profiles. These data will inform the fellow’s long-term research plan to characterize neurobiological markers of ADHD in a series of studies involving young children, including the fellow’s pending NIMH R00 grant and a longitudinal infant risk study that the fellow will seek funding for in the next three years. Although heterogeneity in ADHD is well established, a framework for convergence of multiple neurobiological etiologies on this single behavioral disorder is lacking. The second, exploratory aim of this proposal is to expand the neurobiological model of ADHD by testing the hypothesis that children with ADHD have an imbalance of neuronal excitation and inhibition (E/I). The visual evoked potential (VEP) is a sensitive indicator of E/I and measured with EEG. E/I imbalance has previously been proposed as a causal factor for ADHD, but this will be the first study to measure E/I imbalance in school aged children with ADHD using VEP. VEP measurement will improve understanding of underlying neurobiology in ADHD and lead to more sensitive and specific biomarkers.

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