ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a condition that affects between 3% and 10% of the American child population. Also known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), this disorder is found to be present in males more than females. A disorder that was first described in 1845 by the physician, Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, medical acknowledgement of ADHD came slow. Children with ADHD were first considered to be bad, stupid, and weak children in the past. However, it is now acknowledged that ADHD is a medical condition that is believed to originate in the brain.

In the 1990s, diagnostic medical imaging tools began to be used in the study of ADHD. The research conducted by using such procedures as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) concluded that the symptoms of ADHD are caused by a neurological dysfunction within the brain. PET scans of ADHD that were conducted during this time for research purposes theorized that the areas of the brain responsible for performing such functions as attention, concentration, planning, and organization were functioning at a lower activity level when compared to individuals without ADHD. Additionally, ADHD PET scan imaging were able to produce images in individuals with ADHD that showed that less visible activity was taking place in both the front and pre-frontal lobes in ADHD patients.

Despite the results of these research studies, the underlying physiological mechanism that causes ADHD is still unclear. Consequently, scientific study remains in unlocking the scientific mystery of what causes ADHD. It is generally believed in the scientific community that ADHD is a biological condition that results from dysfunction in the brain. However, exactly what neural mechanisms responsible for ADHD are still unknown.

Originally developed as a medical technology used for research basis, Positron Emission Tomography is a valuable tool used in ADHD research. A metabolic imaging tool, ADHD PET scanning allows researchers an opportunity to examine the biochemical functions of ADHD patients. Through the use of radioactive tracer that combines a radioisotope (used for PET scanners to detect) and a natural body compound (usually glucose), researchers are able examine the metabolic functions of ADHD patients. During preliminary research, PET scans of ADHD revealed that the frontal lobes of ADHD patients absorbed less of the radioactive tracer, which was similar to glucose, than in patients without ADHD. What these findings suggest is that there is less activity in these brain areas, which may be the cause of ADHD.

However, without more research these studies remain unconfirmed. As medical scientists continue to try to ascertain the cause of ADHD, it can be assumed that they will be using PET technology for their research.

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