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Worth a thousand words... A snapshot of the mind

August 2002

They say a picture is worth a thousand words - but a snapshot of the mind may
be priceless.

Steven A. Pliszka, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry, is using advanced technology, called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to take pictures of the brain in action. The results will have a phenomenal impact on the way doctors understand, diagnose and treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is perhaps one of the most controversial childhood disorders. It strikes about 5 percent of school-aged children, causing consistent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Until now, doctors weren't really sure what caused the disorder. But in preliminary tests, Dr. Pliszka has isolated a region of the brain that functions differently in ADHD children.

"In preliminary tests using the fMRI, children with ADHD displayed a lack of activity in the right frontal lobe of the brain," Dr. Pliszka said. "The results suggest we can identify brain mechanisms that may not be fully functional in ADHD patients."

The National Institutes of Health was so impressed with Dr. Pliszka's work, it awarded him a three-year, $870,000 grant to expand his studies. Dr. Pliszka believes the results of the study will lead to a standardized, diagnostic test for ADHD, as well as better treatments for the disorder.

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



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