Ask the Experts

ADHD Brain Scans: Are These Necessary for a Diagnosis?

“Is a brain scan, such as a computed axial tomography (CT or CAT scan) or Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), necessary for an accurate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis in children or adults?”

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is not a structural problem in the brain. It’s primarily a chemical problem. There are certainly some structural differences that brain imaging shows — this part of the brain is a little smaller than normal and that part is a bit bigger. However, brain imaging is a snapshot of the brain’s structure that is taken in a fraction of a second and tells you nothing about whether a patient has ADHD. That’s why you need to ask questions about how the patient functions in a variety of situations at various times of the day, under different circumstances.

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