Research at the Mass General is interwoven throughout more than 30 departments, centers and units and is conducted with the support and guidance of the Mass General Research Institute. The Research Roundup is a monthly series highlighting studies, news and events.

A Child’s Birth Date and School Grade Cutoffs May Contribute to ADHD Misdiagnosis

Could a child’s birthday put them at risk for an ADHD misdiagnosis? The answer appears to be yes, at least among children born in August who start school in states with a Sept. 1 enrollment cutoff date, according to a new study led by Harvard Medical School and MGH researchers.

The team’s findings show that children born in August in those states are 30 percent more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than their almost one-year older peers enrolled in the same grade.

The study supports the notion that in a subset of elementary school students, enrollment at a younger age may contribute to an ADHD misdiagnosis.

“As children grow older, small differences in age equalize and dissipate over time, but behaviorally speaking, the difference between a 6-year-old and a 7-year-old could be quite pronounced,” says Anupam Jena, MD, PhD, senior study author and internal medicine physician.

Extending Anti-Smoking Services to Breastfeeding Mothers Could Increase Quit Rates at a Critical Time

A study by MassGeneral Hospital for Children researchers demonstrates that an MGHfC-developed program designed to help the parents of pediatric patients quit smoking could also be used to help breastfeeding mothers who smoke.

While studies have shown that mothers are more likely to quit smoking during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, most of those who smoked prior to pregnancy eventually resume.

Although evidence has suggested that breastfeeding may be a critical time period for helping mothers quit permanently, no previous study has investigated whether pediatric practices were providing smoking cessation assistance to breastfeeding mothers. The study found that practices at which staff were trained in the MGH-developed CEASE intervention were significantly more likely than control practices to ask breastfeeding mothers whether they were smoking, and to offer assistance to those who did.

“Mothers who smoke expose infants to secondhand and thirdhand smoke, and toxic substances can be transmitted through breastmilk,” says Jeremy Drehmer, MPH, CPH, of the Division of General Academic Pediatrics and the Mass General Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, lead author of the report. “The study demonstrated that the CEASE intervention enhances the delivery of smoking cessation assistance at pediatric offices to mothers who breastfeed, capitalizing on this important time when mothers who smoke are more likely to quit.”

Tracking an Iron-Based Brain Mineral Could Help in Predicting Alzheimer’s Disease and Assessing New Treatments

Investigators at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging have used magnetoencephalography (MEG) – a technology that measures brain activity by detecting the weak magnetic fields produced by the brain’s normal electrical currents – to measure levels of the iron-based mineral called magnetite in the human brain.

While magnetite is known to be present in the normal brain and to accumulate with age, evidence has also suggested it may play a role in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

“The ability to measure and localize magnetite in the living brain will allow new studies of its role in both the normal brain and in neurodegenerative disease,” says David Cohen, PhD, of the Martinos Center, corresponding author of the report published in Human Brain Mapping. “Studies could investigate whether the amount of magnetite in the hippocampal region could predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease and whether treatments that influence magnetite could alter disease progression.”