Neuroprotection in late life attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A review of pharmacotherapy and phenotype across the lifespan

Cintya Nirvana Dutta, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Hernando Ombao, Pamela K. Douglas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For decades, psychostimulants have been the gold standard pharmaceutical treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the United States, an astounding 9% of all boys and 4% of girls will be prescribed stimulant drugs at some point during their childhood. Recent meta-analyses have revealed that individuals with ADHD have reduced brain volume loss later in life (>60 y.o.) compared to the normal aging brain, which suggests that either ADHD or its treatment may be neuroprotective. Crucially, these neuroprotective effects were significant in brain regions (e.g., hippocampus, amygdala) where severe volume loss is linked to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Historically, the ADHD diagnosis and its pharmacotherapy came about nearly simultaneously, making it difficult to evaluate their effects in isolation. Certain evidence suggests that psychostimulants may normalize structural brain changes typically observed in the ADHD brain. If ADHD itself is neuroprotective, perhaps exercising the brain, then psychostimulants may not be recommended across the lifespan. Alternatively, if stimulant drugs are neuroprotective, then this class of medications may warrant further investigation for their therapeutic effects. Here, we take a bottom-up holistic approach to review the psychopharmacology of ADHD in the context of recent models of attention. We suggest that future studies are greatly needed to better appreciate the interactions amongst an ADHD diagnosis, stimulant treatment across the lifespan, and structure-function alterations in the aging brain.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Sep 26 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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