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"There's a great chance the environment is modifying these genes," Burbach said, adding the genes could lead to several brain disorders, depending on things like the child's upbringing and other genetic factors.
He also thought scientists might eventually be able to reverse ADHD.
"This is not a structural abnormality in the brain, it's just the last phase of development that's gone wrong," he said. "It could be the brain just needs to be fine-tuned."
Philip Asherson, a professor of molecular psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said the study only dealt with a subset of people with ADHD and said the environment should still be considered a cause. In the case of some Romanian orphans, Asherson said there was proof that severe deprivation at an early age can lead to ADHD or other neurological problems.
Asherson said the medical world was still years away from being able to correct ADHD.
"The study doesn't tell us a lot about what's going on in the brains of people with ADHD," he said. "If we can find out more about these genes and how they affect brain development, that may give us inroads, but it's hard to say when that will be."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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