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San Antonio psychiatrist receives major federal funding for ADHD study

Results will have a phenomenal impact on the way doctors understand, diagnose and treat the disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has baffled both parents and doctors for years. But a psychiatrist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) has launched a groundbreaking study that will answer one of the most pertinent questions: What causes ADHD?

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Steven R. Pliszka, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry, a three-year, $870,000 grant to advance his research.

Dr. Pliszka is using technology called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to take an active picture of the brain. In preliminary tests, children with ADHD displayed a lack of activity in the right frontal lobe.

"The results suggest we can identify brain mechanisms that may not be fully functional in ADHD patients," Dr. Pliszka said. "This study will allow us to confirm or refute one of the major theories of ADHD - that functioning of a particular area of the frontal lobe is altered. It will lead to a better understanding of the causes of ADHD and, in conjunction with other research, we might be able to develop new treatments."

ADHD is characterized by consistent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The disorder affects approximately 5 percent of schoolchildren, 2 percent of adolescents, and 1 percent to 2 percent of adults.

Dr. Pliszka is working in conjunction with Peter Fox, M.D., and Jinju Xiong, Ph.D., of the Health Science Center's Research Imaging Center to complete his work.

Contacts: Amanda Gallagher

Aileen Salinas