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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with reading disabilities: preliminary genetic findings on the involvement of the ADRA2A gene


Jim Stevenson, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK.


Background:  Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and reading disability (RD) tend to co-occur and quantitative genetic studies have shown this to arise primarily through shared genetic influences. However, molecular genetic studies have shown different genes to be associated with each of these conditions. Neurobiological studies have implicated noradrenergic function in the aetiology of ADHD that is comorbid with RD. This paper examines the neurobiological evidence and presents preliminary testing of the hypothesis that the ADRA2A receptor gene is contributing to ADHD and comorbid RD.

Methods:  One hundred and fifty-two children (140 boys, 12 girls) of British Caucasian origin, aged between 6 and 13 years and with a diagnosis of ADHD, were recruited. The children's reading ability was tested. Children were identified as having ADHD or ADHD plus RD (n = 82). DNA was available for 110 parent child trios and 42 parent child duos. Genotyping was undertaken for an ADRA2A polymorphism.

Results:  For those with ADHD plus RD there was evidence of association with the alpha 2A adrenergic receptor (ADRA2A) polymorphism with the G allele being preferentially transmitted.

Conclusions:  The preliminary evidence together with other neurobiological research findings suggests that the ADRA2A gene may contribute to comorbid ADHD and RD and needs to be properly examined.