5 Things to Know About ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is more than just a behavior problem. Research has unveiled that genetic, environmental, and neuropsychological factors impact behaviors associated with the disorder. Here are the 5 most important things to know about ADHD. 

1. ADHD causes a reduction in brain size.

Castellanos et al., 2002 found that patients with ADHD have reduced matter in key areas of the brain.  For example, a person with ADHD may have deficiencies in their motor skills. Simple tasks such as walking may take more brainpower and thus if there is a disruption in this daily functioning, someone with ADHD is inclined to be frustrated. Not only does it affect their motor functioning, but the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex are impacted. These areas are involved in motor planning, which is impaired in patients with ADHD. It is not so much that someone with ADHD doesn’t want to plan actions, but they have trouble planning because they have less circuitry to work with. The executive and the motor sections are the most impacted by the reduction in brain size; however, the reduction also impacts the cross-communication between the left and right hemispheres.

2. ADHD does not predict IQ.

This is a huge concern to parents of children with ADHD. There is a stigma that a child with ADHD is considered less intelligent than his/her peers. Research has found that IQ and ADHD are separate (Wood et al., 2011).  This study has huge implications for therapists, teachers, parents, and ADHD patients themselves.  A diagnosis of ADHD does not make anyone with ADHD any less capable or intelligent. Learn how parents, therapists, and teachers can help any student who is struggling in school.  

3. ADHD or dopamine misfiring?

One theory suggests that there is the dopamine transfer deficit (DTD) posited by Tripp and Wickens, 2008. This theory claims that dopamine cells in the brains of ADHD misfire.  Patients often suffer from delayed gratification because dopamine does not transfer properly. This theory helps explain why a student with ADHD may act out in class. They may get out of their seat at an inappropriate time because they don’t receive a direct reward for doing something they do not wish to do.

4. Resting is not in the ADHD vocabulary.

People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are never at rest. There is a section of the brain called the Default Mode Network (DMN). This network consists of 3 parts:

This section of our brain is active when we are at rest (not actively engaged in a task). Weissman et al., 2006 found that when this network is active during other brain function it has a tendency to interfere with the brain’s overall ability to perform. Another study, by Tian et al. 2008 found that ADHD patients have more resting-state activity in the sensory. This research group also found that ADHD patients have more activity while they are in the restings phase. The additional activity during the resting state helps explain the increased hyperactivity. 

5. Prenatal Has an Influence

A study by Brookes et al., 2006 examined the environmental and genetic factors that may influence ADHD. Most research was focused on dopamine receptor genes such as DRD4. Further research has discovered environmental factors such as prenatal alcohol exposure, low birth weight, and exposure to teratogens (Brookes et al., 2006, Mick et al 2002, Rodriguez and Bohlin, 2005) can influence a child being born with ADHD. Although more research has to be conducted, the number of cases shows the significance of these factors.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not just a behavior problem, but a complex multifactor problem that significantly impacts a person’s life. Everyday life functions, social engagements, and self-esteem are impacted by the frustrations of this cognitive disorder.  It is important for supervisors, teachers, parents, peers, and those with ADHD to understand the complexity of the disorder. People experience ADHD differently, and no two cases are alike. Some interventions may work for one person, but be ineffective for another. Therapists working with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder patients may consider implementing a cognitive rehabilitation therapy program, though more research using these methods needs to be conducted to determine efficacy. 

Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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