Can I Have Your Attention Please?

Children with ADHD cannot control mind-wandering, study finds

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a hard time turning off a "mind-wandering" switch in their brain, according to a recent study at the University of Nottingham.

ADHD affects 1 in 50 children in the UK and between 5-8 percent of school-age children and 2-4 percent of adults in the United States. Using a game, researchers from the University of Nottingham found that children do well with activities that interest them but easily become bored with tasks they are not invested in.

Children require either interest, or "incentive", along with medication, to be able to function and concentrate like a non-ADHD child. When lacking interest, their mind wandered easily.

This is due to their difficulty in turning off their "default mode network" (DMN), which kicks in during idle moments and allows random thoughts and "day dreaming" to occur. The DMN is usually turned off when a person is focused on a particular task, but the UK study suggests children with ADHD may not be able to suppress it well enough.

By studying brain scans of children with ADHD versus those without it, researchers found that the children without the disorder were able to easily switch off their default mode network while playing a game. Children with ADHD were unable to switch off their DMN unless they had incentive or medication, resulting in poor performance.

The study revealed the important role that incentives and ADHD drugs play in managing brain activity in children. The amount of interest a child has in a task will help avoid distraction, along with medication.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
October 2, 2012