Long-term ADHD treatment increases brain dopamine transporter levels, may affect drug efficacy

May 15, 2013, Public Library of Science

Long-term treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with certain stimulant medications may alter the density of the dopamine transporter, according to research published May 15 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gene-Jack Wang and colleagues from Brookhaven National Laboratory and the intramural program at NIH.

is commonly treated using drugs to target dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, such as (commonly known as Ritalin). The researchers found that adults with ADHD who had been prescribed the drug methylphenidate for a period of 12 months had a 24% increase in the density of the dopamine transporter in some , which after treatment was significantly higher than in adults without ADHD who had not been treated with the drug. Prior to the 12-month treatment, there were no significant differences in the two groups' dopamine transporter levels. The authors conclude that the elevated dopamine transporter density, suggested by some as a biological test for diagnosis of ADHD, may be a consequence of chronic treatment rather than a marker for the disorder. These findings may offer an explanation for discrepancies in the literature describing dopamine transporter levels in ADHD patients, as differences in dopamine transporter levels in the brain may be due to differences in prior treatment.

Many studies have shown that an acute increase in dopamine signaling while on methylphenidate treatment can improve ADHD symptoms in the short term, but this is the first study to analyze the long-term effects of treatment.

Explore further: Methylphenidate 'normalizes' activation in key brain areas in kids with ADHD

More information: Wang G-J, Volkow ND, Wigal T, Kollins SH, Newcorn JH, et al. (2013) Long-Term Stimulant Treatment Affects Brain Dopamine Transporter Level in Patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63023. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063023

Related Stories

Methylphenidate 'normalizes' activation in key brain areas in kids with ADHD

May 9, 2013
The stimulant drug methylphenidate "normalizes" activation of several brain areas in young patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a review published in the May Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

Children with certain dopamine system gene variants respond better to ADHD drug

October 21, 2011
Children with certain dopamine system gene variants have an improved response to methylphenidate - the most commonly prescribed medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - in a finding that could help eliminate ...

Patients' brains may adapt to ADHD medication

February 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- New research reveals how the brain appears to adapt to compensate for the effects of long-term ADHD medication, suggesting why ADHD medication is more effective short-term than it is long-term. The study, ...

Recommended for you

For children with ADHD, a brief, school-based program can help dramatically with homework problems, study finds

December 6, 2017
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who took part in a brief, school-based program displayed significant improvements in their homework, organization and planning skills, according to a new study led by ...

What can twitter reveal about people with ADHD?

November 9, 2017
What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania ...

Brain imaging reveals ADHD as a collection of different disorders

November 8, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the ...

Can adults develop ADHD? New research says probably not

October 20, 2017
Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research by FIU clinical psychologist Margaret Sibley.

Nearly a third of college kids think ADHD meds boost grades

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many college students who abuse ADHD drugs mistakenly believe that doing so will lead to better grades, a new survey suggests.

School year 'relative age' causing bias in ADHD diagnosis, says research

October 9, 2017
Younger primary school children are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older peers within the same school year, new research has shown.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.