The ADHD Difference

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder activity changes in attention and motivation brain regions

(RxWiki News) Although many consider the recent rise in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to be suspect, the unique brain chemistry of ADHD patients suggests evidence to the contrary.

A recent study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry tested a hypothesis that the neuropathology of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reflects dysfunction in brain regions for both attention and motivation.   Authors found connectivity differences in brain mechanism dealing with attention and motivation. 

"Keep a positive outlook with loved ones with ADHD, encouraging them through difficulties."

Dardo Tomasi, assistant scientist for the Buenos Aires government, working with Nora Volkow, MD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), authored the study.  To test their hypothesis, the researchers compared the brain tissue of 247 ADHD patients and 304 control subjects using the magnetic resonance imaging database. 

Thereafter, the pair quantified the images by functional connectivity density within the brain.  

The results proved their theory correct, and children with ADHD had connectivity differences with both attention networks (superior parental cortex) and in reward-motivation areas (orbitofrontal cortex, ventral striatum).  

Moreover, human "default-mode networks" (precuneus) and cerebellum showed lower connectivity issues similar to those in attention networks, while motivation areas demonstrate hyperactivity.  

The authors explain that "the enhanced connectivity within reward-motivation regions and their decreased connectivity with regions from the default-mode and dorsal attention networks suggest impaired interactions between control and reward pathways in ADHD that might underlie attention and motivation deficits in ADHD."  

Contributing expert and ADHD therapist LuAnn Pierce explains to dailyRx, "This study seems to reiterate that children and adults with ADHD show deficient levels of dopamine receptors required to maintain motivation and delay gratification.  

With regard to treatment, this means interventions require more frequent external reinforcers, and that these should be offered sooner rather than later."

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is the highest diagnosed childhood behavioral disorder affecting around five percent of school-aged children and many adults. Recent studies prove it to be genetically-influenced yet its pathology remains unclear. Symptoms tend to fall into three groups including inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

"For some people, working toward a reward or payoff at the end of the day is sufficient to sustain their interest and drive. For those with ADHD, frequent reinforcements throughout the day is often the most effective method of sustaining their interest and motivation to reach the ultimate reward or payoff.

This may mean receiving words of encouragement for some, and tokens or rewards throughout the day for others who require the more immediate reinforcement", said Pierce.

LuAnn provides excellent advice for loved ones of those with ADHD, and goes on to provide everyday advice for ADHD sufferers as well, stating that "according to previous research by ADHD expert Russell Barkley, in order to replenish the necessary levels of motivation for longer-term objectives (longer being a relative term for people with ADHD), take frequent breaks to stretch or move around, get in a few minutes of light exercise, take three minutes or more of meditation or have a snack or drink to boost glucose levels." 

ADHD treatments and therapies improve regularly, and children and adults alike show continued success and improvement in their daily lives. Contact a doctor if suffering from symptoms of ADHD.

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Review Date: 
December 9, 2011