A newer MRI method can detect low iron levels in the brains of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The method could help doctors and parents make better informed decisions about medication, a new study says.
Psychostimulant drugs used to treat ADHD affect levels of the brain chemical dopamine.
Study author, Dr Vitria Adisetiyo, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said because iron was required to process dopamine, using the MRI scanner to assess iron levels in the brain could provide a non-invasive, indirect measure of the chemical.
Improved diagnosis and treatment
Adisetiyo said if these findings were confirmed in larger studies, the technique might help improve ADHD diagnosis and treatment.
The method might allow researchers to measure dopamine levels without injecting the patient with a substance that enhances imaging, she said.
ADHD symptoms include hyperactivity and difficulty staying focused, paying attention and controlling behaviour.
The American psychiatric association reports that between 3 - 7% of school-age children are affected by ADHD.
Everything you need to know about ADHD
(Photo of MRI scanner by Shutterstock