A review of heterogeneity in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Yuyang Luo, Dana Weibman, Jeffrey M. Halperin, Xiaobo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately 8%–12% of children worldwide. Throughout an individual’s lifetime, ADHD can significantly increase risk for other psychiatric disorders, educational and occupational failure, accidents, criminality, social disability and addictions. No single risk factor is necessary or sufficient to cause ADHD. The multifactorial causation of ADHD is reflected in the heterogeneity of this disorder, as indicated by its diversity of psychiatric comorbidities, varied clinical profiles, patterns of neurocognitive impairment and developmental trajectories, and the wide range of structural and functional brain anomalies. Although evidence-based treatments can reduce ADHD symptoms in a substantial portion of affected individuals, there is yet no curative treatment for ADHD. A number of theoretical models of the emergence and developmental trajectories of ADHD have been proposed, aimed at providing systematic guides for clinical research and practice. We conducted a comprehensive review of the current status of research in understanding the heterogeneity of ADHD in terms of etiology, clinical profiles and trajectories, and neurobiological mechanisms. We suggest that further research focus on investigating the impact of the etiological risk factors and their interactions with developmental neural mechanisms and clinical profiles in ADHD. Such research would have heuristic value for identifying biologically homogeneous subgroups and could facilitate the development of novel and more tailored interventions that target underlying neural anomalies characteristic of more homogeneous subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • ADHD
  • Cognitive impairments
  • DTI
  • Functional MRI
  • Heterogeneity
  • Neuroscience model
  • Risk factors
  • Structural MRI


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