Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Can a Medical Device Help Diagnose ADHD?

child finger paintChris has been diagnosed by his psychologist as having ADHD (Attention Deficit/HyperActivity Disorder) but mom and dad are not sure this is the right diagnosis. They keep asking, other than our reports and those from the school, is there any other way to really know that Chris has ADHD? They know other families who feel the diagnosis wasn’t accurate and wondered if schools were too quick to label children who may have problems or even be developmentally immature.

These parents share the concern of many–is ADHD over diagnosed? Why do we have so many kids with the diagnosis?


Diagnosis can difficult given the development of the child and  range of what we consider to be “normal” behaviors.

A new medical device may just help Chris’ parents. The new device is based on electroencephalogram (EEG) technology and is called the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System. The US Food and Drug Administration recently allowed the marketing of this medical device.

The device is to be used as part of a complete medical and psychological evaluation for children 6-17 years of age in the assessment. The 15-20 minute test is noninvasive and calculates the ratio of theta and beta brain waves. Theta/beta ratio of brain waves have proven to be higher in children and adolescents with  ADHD than children without the diagnosis.


Hopefully, this brain wave technology can assist in making better diagnosis. Given the average ADHD diagnosis is made around age 7, and that approximately 9% of children/adolescents have ADHD, this device could assist in accuracy of diagnosis.

But experts are not so sure, feeling that a 15 minute test really doesn’t tell you much about how a child behaves in real life.

Another area being studied is looking at unintentional hand movement. The notion is that ADHD kid have more of that movement. Johns Hopkins researchers studied this by having kids go through a finger tapping exercise. They noticed a difference between the nonADHD and ADHD kids. The ADHD kids engaged in less mirroring, but the difference wasn’t as noticeable with girls and older children. However, the results showed that finger tapping could be linked to ADHD in young boys.

Bottom line, used alone these type of tests are helpful, but not definitive. The diagnosis still needs to be made after interviews with parents, teachers and even the child. Right now, these tests may be helpful but certainly not definitive.




Another tool to use


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