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FDA Approves First Ever Brain Test for ADHD

Update Date: Jul 16, 2013 01:17 PM EDT

Children and teenagers with attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) often have more difficulty staying focused in school. Since children afflicted with this disorder have higher rates of dropping out of school and getting involved with drugs, researchers had adamantly tried to find new ways of treating and screening children for ADD/ADHD. Despite the current screening options, several children are left misdiagnosed or undiagnosed due to several factors ranging from the screening test to one's socioeconomic background. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hopes to change how children and teenagers get diagnosed by approving the first ever brain wave test that assesses adolescents for ADHD.

According to the FDA, the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment (NEBA) system can be used in conjunction with a complete medical and a psychological examination during the process of screening children from the ages of six to 17 for ADHD. The NEBA system utilizes electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, which provides two very important functions. First, the system can measure all of the multiple types of electrical impulses that are produced by the brain's nerve cells, or neurons. Second, the system can record the frequency, or the number of times these impulses are given off every second. This type of technology then helps compute a ratio between two brain wave frequencies, which are theta waves versus beta waves. The brain wave ratio between theta and beta waves are typically higher in people with ADHD.

The NEBA system only takes around 15 to 20 minutes and is a noninvasive procedure. The FDA approved the system after reviewing the statistics provided from the clinical trial. In this trial, the sample set included 275 children who were from the ages of six to 17. The researchers had compared the effects of using the NEBA system on top of current diagnostic tests to simply using the current tests alone. They found that the NEBA system helped clinicians diagnose ADHD more accurately. The current diagnostic tests are also known as the standard diagnostic protocols, which consist of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV Test Revision (DSM-IV-TR) criteria, behavioral questionnaires, behavioral and IQ testing, and physical exams.

Based from the statistics provided by the American Psychiatric Association, nine percent of adolescents currently have ADHD in the United States. The average age of diagnosis is seven. The FDA hopes that this new screening test can aid medical professionals in diagnosing children and treating them more effectively and efficiently. 

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