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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013 Nov;52(11):1204-1212.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.08.020. Epub 2013 Sep 5.

Candidate genetic pathways for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show association to hyperactive/impulsive symptoms in children with ADHD.

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Radboud University Medical Centre, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.



Because multiple genes with small effect sizes are assumed to play a role in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) etiology, considering multiple variants within the same analysis likely increases the total explained phenotypic variance, thereby boosting the power of genetic studies. This study investigated whether pathway-based analysis could bring scientists closer to unraveling the biology of ADHD.


The pathway was described as a predefined gene selection based on a well-established database or literature data. Common genetic variants in pathways involved in dopamine/norepinephrine and serotonin neurotransmission and genes involved in neuritic outgrowth were investigated in cases from the International Multicentre ADHD Genetics (IMAGE) study. Multivariable analysis was performed to combine the effects of single genetic variants within the pathway genes. Phenotypes were DSM-IV symptom counts for inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity (n = 871) and symptom severity measured with the Conners Parent (n = 930) and Teacher (n = 916) Rating Scales.


Summing genetic effects of common genetic variants within the pathways showed a significant association with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms ((p)empirical = .007) but not with inattentive symptoms ((p)empirical = .73). Analysis of parent-rated Conners hyperactive/impulsive symptom scores validated this result ((p)empirical = .0018). Teacher-rated Conners scores were not associated. Post hoc analyses showed a significant contribution of all pathways to the hyperactive/impulsive symptom domain (dopamine/norepinephrine, (p)empirical = .0004; serotonin, (p)empirical = .0149; neuritic outgrowth, (p)empirical = .0452).


The present analysis shows an association between common variants in 3 genetic pathways and the hyperactive/impulsive component of ADHD. This study demonstrates that pathway-based association analyses, using quantitative measurements of ADHD symptom domains, can increase the power of genetic analyses to identify biological risk factors involved in this disorder.


attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms; genetic pathways; neuritic outgrowth; neurotransmitter systems

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