A genetic study of ADHD and activity level in infancy


N. Ilott, MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, PO Box 80, UK. E-mail:nicholas.ilott@iop.kcl.ac.uk


It is well known that there are strong genetic influences on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with genetic association studies providing good evidence for the involvement of the dopamine neurotransmitter system in its aetiology. Developmental origins of ADHD represent an interesting area of research to understand the genetics that underlie early appearing individual differences. However, understanding the molecular basis of ADHD requires accurate, unbiased, heritable measures that can be used for molecular genetic association analyses. We take two approaches to examine the genetics of ADHD behaviours in infancy. Using quantitative genetic techniques, we explore the relationship between objective measures of activity level (AL) in both home and laboratory environments as well as with parent ratings of ADHD symptoms in a population sample of 2-year-old twins. Molecular association analyses of these measures examine candidate genes previously associated with ADHD. We find that ADHD symptoms, AL in the home and AL in the lab represent heritable phenotypes in 2-year-old infants. AL measured in the home has a strong genetic correlation with symptoms of ADHD, whereas AL in the lab correlates only modestly with the same ADHD measure. Genetic correlations suggest that AL in the home is more comparable than AL in the lab to ADHD behaviour and support the separation of all three for molecular analyses. There was modest evidence for association between DAT1, NET1 and ADHD symptom scores, as well as between DAT1 and AL in the lab.