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CHICAGO — ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders.

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have trouble focusing and regulating their activity level.

A diagnosis is typically made by observing behavior and doctors know what shows on the outside stems from particular areas of the brain.

Now, new research reveals the changes are more widespread that originally thought.

Looking at data from thousands of pediatric brain scans, Yale scientists spotted something.

“Surprisingly, we could almost see an overall change in the whole brain,” Huang Lin, a Yale School of Medicine Radiologic Researcher said.

From front to back, top to bottom, the researchers noted structural changes among those diagnosed with ADHD throughout the entire brain, not just in one area as previous studies have noted.

The biomarkers included abnormal connectivity in networks involved in memory and auditory processing, thinning of the brain cortex and significant white matter changes, especially in the frontal lobe.

“Frontal lobe is especially interesting because we have part of our attention network located in that specific area, but also it is in charge of our social skills, also social control, impulsivity control,” Lin said. “It’s also the main part of your personality I would say.”

The findings may help doctors differentiate between ADHD and other conditions.

“Often we have autism as a co-morbidity, also depression, also social anxiety,” Lin said.

That means a more objective evaluation and accurate diagnosis, not just relying on reported symptoms but actual brain structure – a process that could also help target treatments for patients and reduce the number of children on unnecessary medication.

“We’re going in the right direction,” Lin said. “Providing the first step to really establishing a tool that provides diagnostic support for clinicians.”

The research team said given the large cohort of study subjects, their findings could lead to diagnostic support and surveillance tools that utilize artificial intelligence.

The study was released at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting, which is taking place this week here in Chicago.