Literature study: Identification of potential biomarkers for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common childhood behavioural disorder, causing significant impediment to a child’s development. Children with ADHD often receive prescribed medication, however medication is not always effective and can have serious side-effects. Therefore, there is considerable interest in the development of alternative treatment options. One of these novel therapies might be dietary treatment. Meta-analysis has demonstrated that a diet eliminating many foods and additives, the so-called few-foods diet (FFD), substantially reduced ADHD symptoms in the majority of children. In our current study, the BRAIN study, we aim to (1) understand the mechanism(s) underlying the favourable response to an FFD and (2) identify biomarkers that can predict whether a child will respond to an FFD intervention. We hypothesise that an FFD affects brain function and behaviour via the complex network of communication between the microbiota, gut and brain, i.e. the microbiota-gut-brain (MGB) axis. In the BRAIN study, 100 children with ADHD receive an FFD intervention. Blood, urine, buccal swab and stool samples are collected before and after following the FFD, and will be used for biomarker identification. Upon collection of samples for all 100 participants, blood, urine and stool samples will be screened for proteins and metabolites. In preparation of these analyses, we aim to create a list of potential biomarkers that should be included in the targeted screening.




1) Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2011; 377: 494-503

2) Diet and ADHD, reviewing the evidence: a systematic review of meta-analyses of double-blind placebo-controlled trials evaluating the efficacy of diet interventions on the behavior of children with ADHD. PLoS One 2017; 12: e0169277


The aim of this literature study is to make an inventory of (potential) biomarkers for ADHD that have previously been published. In the final report, the student is expected to advise the BRAIN study researchers which proteins and metabolites should be included in the screening, based on biological relevance and/or previously published associations with ADHD or related disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).



Searching and reviewing literature and published datasets for proteins and metabolites that might serve as biomarkers for ADHD or the response to an FFD intervention.



Students pursuing BSc/MSc degree in Biology, Molecular Life Sciences, or a related discipline.


Contact information

Tim Stobernack (, Host-Microbe Interactomics, Wageningen University and Research, Room E1208, Zodiac (building 122), De Elst 1, 6708 WD Wageningen, Tel. +31 (0)317 486 302

Thea Godschalk (, Host-Microbe Interactomics, Wageningen University and Research, Room E1208, Zodiac (building 122), De Elst 1, 6708 WD Wageningen, Tel. +31 (0)317 482 710