ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) – Exploring whether photographic images can help soothe stress led Eastman Kodak Co. to a chance finding: a man who exhibited erratic temperature changes turned out to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The discovery in a medical trial five years ago culminated this spring in Kodak donating seven patents to a Massachusetts research hospital in hopes of developing a new tool for identifying the neurobehavioral disorder that afflicts millions of Americans.

“The diagnosis of ADHD is highly subjective – there’s no definitive test you can give someone that says they’ve got it or they don’t,” Greg Foust, a research manager in Kodak’s System Concepts Center, said Wednesday.

.Kodak scientists spied the unusual temperature oscillations in one of 72 volunteers in a 1998 study.

They were just starting to examine whether images, sounds and other distractions are useful in reducing stress levels or even treating psychiatric ailments such as depression.

Further analysis determined that two other people deprived of anything to hear or look at for 10 minutes underwent “jagged changes” in temperature readings in their fingertips compared with “the nice, smooth, slow temperature changes” of the others, Foust said.

The pair also were found to be stricken with ADHD. The disorder affects as many as 10 million adults in the United States and between 4 percent and 12 percent of school-age children – or as many as 3.8 million youngsters.

Kodak did a follow-up trial in 2000 on 32 children – half of them diagnosed by doctors with ADHD – and found its method to be at least 84 percent accurate in spotting the disorder.

In exchange for an $8 million tax benefit in this year’s first quarter, Kodak turned over its patented findings in late March to McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., a pioneer in ADHD research affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

“As you advance the research, you have to do trials with big universes of people, maybe a 1,000-person trial and that’s a very costly endeavor,” said Kodak spokesman Anthony Sanzio. “It’s much more suited to what they do (at McLean) than what we do.”

If the technology leads to a commercial product, the hospital will reap all the revenues.

“These inventions could help lay the foundation for improving the speed and accuracy of ADHD tests,” said Dr. Martin Teicher, who runs the hospital’s development biopsychiatry research program.

Kodak, the world’s biggest photography company, is still testing whether images can help alleviate psychological problems. “Unfortunately we can’t talk much about that but there are still ideas there that are being actively pursued,” Foust said.

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AP-ES-05-21-03 1717EDT

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