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Normal and ADHD BrainMaps

Observations of how a child behaves or learns are extremely useful in the diagnosis of learning, behavioural, and emotional problems. It is also very useful to have ways of objectively assessing a childís brain to detect immaturities and inefficiencies of function.

The most suitable objective tests are neuro-electrophysiological tests (known as electroencephalograms or EEGs). They do not require an injection, do not involve the use of any radiation, and cause no discomfort to the child. They are completely safe and take approximately 30 minutes to perform.

A specially wired fabric cap is placed on the childís head and connected to a computer which collects samples of the electrical activity in the patientís brain. This data is then analysed and compared with age related normative data.

Computerised quantitative analysis of EEG signals (qEEG) thus allows brain activity to be compared to that of a normal child of the same age, using stored data. The Sydney Developmental Clinic, in conjunction with the University of Wollongong, has published numerous papers in international journals reporting on research in this area. A list of our research papers can be found by clicking this link RESEARCH ARTICLES

Children with ADHD characteristically have immature activity in the frontal part of the brain. This can be shown on a picture known as a BrainMap (qEEG map) that represents the numerical findings of the qEEG in a pictorial form. A BrainMap of a normal child is compared to a characteristic BrainMap seen in ADHD and depicted in the picture on this page.

In the child with ADHD, the frontal part of the brain shows excess immature activity in the form of slow (theta) wave activity. This appearance is often corrected by medication taken for ADHD. This is only one of a number of characteristic patterns seen in ADHD.

qEEGs are a useful aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of children with ADHD but should not be used in isolation.

Some of the abnormalities seen on neuro-electrophysiological testing normalise when medicine for ADHD is taken by the child. These changes can be used to monitor whether medicine is effective (and, in some cases, whether it is being taken). Other changes only become normal with maturity, and these can be used to decide when medicine is no longer needed.

When neuro-electrophysiological testing is performed, we are able to also examine the childís electroencephalogram (EEG) and detect certain types of very brief seizures (absences and petit mal epilepsy) which are uncommon and may go un-noticed, but affect learning.

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