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Neuropharmacology. 2009 Dec;57(7-8):590-600. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2009.08.011. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Genetics of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory, Research Department of Mental Health Sciences, Windeyer Institute of Medical Sciences, University College London Medical School, 46 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JF, UK.


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a clinically and genetically heterogeneous syndrome which is comorbid with childhood conduct disorder, alcoholism, substance abuse, dis-social personality disorder, and affective disorders. A small but consistent overlap with autistic symptoms has also been established. Twin and family studies of ADHD show a substantial genetic heritability with little or no family environmental effect. Linkage and association studies have conclusively implicated the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1). DAT1 has also been confirmed as being associated with bipolar disorder. Remarkably, and for the first time in psychiatry, genetic markers at the DAT1 locus appear to be able to predict clinical heterogeneity because the non-conduct disordered subgroup of ADHD is associated with DAT1 whereas other subgroups do not appear to be associated. The second most well replicated susceptibility gene encodes the DRD4 dopamine receptor and many other dopamine related genes appear to be implicated. It is becoming increasingly clear that genes causing bipolar mania overlap with genes for a subtype of ADHD. The key to understanding the genetics of ADHD is to accept very considerable heterogeneity with different genes having effects in different families and in different individuals. It is too early to interpret the new wave of genome-wide association and copy number variant studies but preliminary data support the overlap with affective disorder genes and also with CNS connectivity genes likely to be involved in autism and affective disorders.

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