08:11pm Thursday 22 June 2017

Identifying early infant markers of ADHD

Maternal factors can contribute to behavioural changes in infants, including the development of ADHD. This is the hypothesis being tested by researchers from Cardiff University School of Biosciences and the School of Psychology.

As previous research has shown, there is a well-defined association between early life adversity (either prenatally or in early childhood) and significantly poorer outcomes for children. Exposure of the developing foetus to poor diet for example, and/or exposure of very young children to suboptimal maternal care can have life-long consequences including an increased occurrence of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and schizophrenia. Maternal mood disorders during pregnancy and in the immediate postnatal period are also intimately linked to poor diet in pregnancy.

ADHD is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Most cases are diagnosed when children are between 6 and 12 years old.  Building on the Grown in Wales Infant study (a longitudinal study of maternal-infant interactions) and with funding from the Waterloo Foundation, this study aims to identify the early infant markers of ADHD.

Lead researcher, Professor Rosalind John of the School of Biosciences explained,

“In this year-long study, we will examine infant neurodevelopmental functioning at 12 months of age using tests with direct relevance to early signs of ADHD, and ask whether the expression of imprinted genes in the placenta at birth predicts early ADHD markers.”

“We will also explore whether maternal lifestyle factors, such as diet, are associated with these same gene changes. Together, these data will lend support to the hypothesis that maternal factors programme changes in the developing epigenome, thus contributing to behavioural changes in the child.”

Professor Rosalind John, Head of Biomedicine Division, Professor

Cardiff University

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