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Lancet Psychiatry. 2016 Jun;3(6):555-67. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(16)00096-1. Epub 2016 May 13.

Moving towards causality in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: overview of neural and genetic mechanisms.

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Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, USA. Electronic address:
Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, USA.


Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention and hyperactivity or impulsivity. The heterogeneity of its clinical manifestations and the differential responses to treatment and varied prognoses have long suggested myriad underlying causes. Over the past decade, clinical and basic research efforts have uncovered many behavioural and neurobiological alterations associated with ADHD, from genes to higher order neural networks. Here, we review the neurobiology of ADHD by focusing on neural circuits implicated in the disorder and discuss how abnormalities in circuitry relate to symptom presentation and treatment. We summarise the literature on genetic variants that are potentially related to the development of ADHD, and how these, in turn, might affect circuit function and relevant behaviours. Whether these underlying neurobiological factors are causally related to symptom presentation remains unresolved. Therefore, we assess efforts aimed at disentangling issues of causality, and showcase the shifting research landscape towards endophenotype refinement in clinical and preclinical settings. Furthermore, we review approaches being developed to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of this complex disorder, including the use of animal models, neuromodulation, and pharmacoimaging studies.

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