New brain test to help diagnose ADHD

By Brandi Bailey

July 19, 2013 Updated Jul 19, 2013 at 11:59 PM EDT

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's a new test that could change how doctors begin to test for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And it could prove the difference between a child having to take medication or having them get more sleep.

In the past, diagnosing ADHD was a matter of conversations among the child, their parents and often their teachers, which attempts to determine whether a child is paying proper attention.

"The key was always were these symptom occurring more often in the child that you're looking at than other kids and that can get tricky," said clinical director, Dr. Vincent Monastra, Ph.D.

The new brain test uses sensors that attach to a child's head to measure brain activity.

"People who had medically based problems with attention quite often, somewhere around 90 percent of the time would show under activation, we call it cortical slowing over brain regions that were involved in sustained attention," Monastra said.

The test doesn't definitively determine whether a person has ADHD, but it does determine whether there's a medical condition with attention.

"The big transition that's occurring now is we're shifting from making a diagnosis purely on interview data and purely on observation to looking at what's going on neurologically with a child and that's a big step forward," Monastra said.

About 9 percent of teens have ADHD and are typically diagnosed by the age of 7.

"The test puts us in the ballpark now knowing we're dealing with something medical rather than something psychological," Monastra said.

This test could also help prevent giving out unnecessary medication.

The brain test is now recognized by the Federal Drug Administration and mentioned in the new DSM-5, which is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, released in May 2013.

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