Platelet function was evaluated in 12 patients with the attention deficit disorder and lifelong history of easy bruising. Aggregation and 14C-serotonin secretion studies in platelet-rich plasma in response to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), epinephrine, and arachidonic acid did not reveal striking abnormalities. Secretion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), ADP, beta-hexosaminidase, and beta-glucuronidase by gel-filtered platelets in response to the divalent cation ionophore A23187 and low concentrations of thrombin (less than or equal to 0.1 U/ml) was impaired in patients as compared to normals. The aggregation response to A23187 (4 microM) was absent in 8 of the 12 patients. The total stores of the secretable constituents, the retention of incorporated 14C-serotonin, and the arachidonate metabolism of the platelets were normal. Our findings suggest a new platelet disorder with impaired secretion mechanism, without storage pool deficiency or impaired arachidonate metabolism. The secretion defect in platelets represents a tissue disorder in a functional psychiatric disease. We refocus attention on the role of platelets as a model for neurons in functional disorders, with emphasis on secretion mechanisms rather than amine uptake, storage, and metabolism.