Health Team

Brain connection lies behind ADHD

Posted September 8, 2009

New research indicates a connection in the brain might be responsible for causing attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Children, teens at risk for ADHD Children, teens at risk for ADHD

ADHD is one of the most prevalent mental disorders in children and teens and can last beyond adolescence. Its symptoms vary widely and can impair a person's ability to pay attention, complete a task or be productive.

"It is estimated that at least 3 to 5 percent of the adult population in the U.S. suffers from ADHD," said Dr. Nora Volkow, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Past research has shown that symptoms like impulsive behavior and inattention could be caused by the disrupted transmission of dopamine, a chemical that helps cells communicate.

"Dopamine is considered a neurotransmitter that is crucial for our ability to perceive rewards and to be motivated in our behavior," Volkow said.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study compared the dopamine reward pathway in the brains of 53 adults with ADHD and 44 adults who don't  have it.

"There was a lower concentration of dopamine markers in the brains of individuals with ADHD, specifically in the areas of the brain that are involved with reward and motivation," Volkow said.

Researchers said the findings help explain why ADHD have a hard time focusing on tasks they don't find interesting. The study supports the concept that making school and work tasks seem more rewarding to patients with ADHD could improve performance.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • HereswhatIthink Sep 14, 2009

    As a parent of a child recently diagnosed with ADHD and finally agreeing to give medication a try I want to add my 2 cents worth. I struggled after the diagnoses to decide to give medication a try. But now that I have and his reports each day are great - he feels so much better about himself and is so proud of himself. I too wish there was a blood test that says YUP he's got it but there isn't. It was explained to me like this "if you had a child who is a diabetic, you would give them the insulin they need" "having a child with ADHD and not medicating is somewhat the same". I know my child won't die if he isn't medicated like a child with diabetes could but you know what I am trying to say here. Deciding to medicate is scary and something we did a lot of research on before choosing this option. My child is spoiled rotten, gets all our attention and our world revolves around him! I am glad his teacher realized it was unfair to punish him for something he could not help.

  • traumahi Sep 11, 2009

    Sadly, it took me becoming an adult & going back to school to figure out that I had ADD. I had no idea that's what it was, especially as an adult. Growing up, my teachers would send home letters "outstanding student, but day dreams." I wish my parents had the knowledge back then to put me on medication. It's not just a lack of interest that makes it hard to focus. I'm far from lazy, I was certainly not neglected & in the early 1980's we didn't have a computer. So now what's your answer? Since being put on medication 3 years ago, I feel good & am more confident than ever. Those are some ignorant comments howdiditgettothis. Obviously you've never dealt with an ADD/ADHD child or adult. Maybe you should educate yourself with the fine print before sticking your foot in your mouth.

  • happymom Sep 11, 2009

    It would be nice if I could just spank my child or take away his toys and POOF--- his brain disorder goes away.

    Believe me, that would be preferable to the endless meetings with his school, the drugs amounting to well over $2000 each year, the therapies costing upward of $5000 each year, the constant explanations to daycares and family, and the day-to-day stress on us and him.

    I thank those with no medical training and plethora of basis opinions for clearing up this problem for all of us. I'm glad you took the time to tell us how to fix this.

    BTW, what do you suggest we do with people who have heart disease? Would spanking them and taking away their toys fix them too?

  • happymom Sep 11, 2009

    "ADHD/ADD or whatever you want to call it -- I'm thinking it is probably a case of neglected child being occupied with too much technology, tv, hand held devices, etc. and not enough attention from attentive parent(s).

    When we stop trying to keep up a certain indulgent lifestyle, and start focusing on our children (that we chose to have) -- then all this labeling will fall by the wayside.

    Some people are just plain lazy in parenting, and life in general.

    As a parent of a child with ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome, I can assure you that I am NOT neglectful, neither is my child "spoiled." BOTH disorders run in my family (particularly among the men), and if you would take the time to educate yourself, you would see that there are actual BRAIN DIFFERENCES between neuro-typical children and those with ADHD.

    I truly hope you don't work with children. It is folks with that type of attitude that make life so hard on those us coping with brain disorders.

  • poizenrn Sep 11, 2009

    Perhaps you should educate yourself about ADHD prior to embarrassing yourself with the heartless comments you have made about children and families world wide. You have no clue how hard it is to raise a child that suffers with ADHD. It effects every aspect of their life. I can't tell you the nights I have cried myself to sleep because of the struggles that my child faces, and the helplessness that I feel for being unable to make her world just a tad bit easier. You judge something you obviously know nothing about and you judge children and parents that do not deserve to hear or read your ignorant statements.
    Signed~Loving Mother of an ADHD child

  • back2basics Sep 10, 2009

    I am a mother of a ADHD child- and believe me, I have tried everything- we do not have a computer, no video games no hand held "devices" - I devote all of my attention to him and I am very strict on him- some say too strict- but I have to stay on him to keep him focused-and he had to know there is a limit/ and if he pushes it there is a consequence/ his symptoms started really early- he is extremely intelligent and talks a mile a minute- but gets really frustrated if he can't put both shoes, and his underwear on all at the same time(just an example)never slows down, if you have never had to deal with this first hand- you would have no idea what it is like- so don't judge parents or children over something you don't understand.

  • NCStatePack Sep 10, 2009

    I've long wondered how my education would have been if I would have continued with my medication. I stopped after 4th grade, and since I got by without it I assumed it was fine. I've made it through college fine, though I can't help but wonder what my gpa would have looked like had I been paying attention in class and while studying. I by no means have severe adhd but it's definitely there, as I can rarely read a paragraph without having to go back and re-read certain parts. For those who are adults (post-college), would it be worth going back to taking small doses of a medication to be more productive? Or at this point is it better to just do without and live like you've been living for the past 12 years?

  • Oberlin Sep 10, 2009

    I was wondering how long I would take to hear the old, “lazy” armchair psychiatrist diagnosis. I'm sure you understand the article was trying to explain there is a chemical reason for ADD/ADHD in both youth and adults - and that certain non-medical techniques may alleviate the symptoms. However, you decided to ignore the point of the article and put your own “scientifically proven” spin on it.

    ADD/ADHD is a real medical disorder. A lifetime of forgetting keys, wallets, why you walked into a room, re-reading a chapter over and over for a statistics exam is maddening. I’ve struggled with it most of my life and medications now allow me to lead the life I wish I could have led without it - normal one in a rewarding career.

    Labels aren’t fun for anyone and “Lazy” is a tired one. Whenever you're ready to let that one “fall by the wayside” those of us with ADD/ADHD will be ready.

    Lastly, I'm sure any child you choose not to haphazardly label as "lazy" will grow up

  • NCStatePack Sep 10, 2009

    I don't know howdiditgettothis, I'm going to have to dispute that. I have great parents that were always there, never neglecting me, and yet I have trouble paying attention to menial tasks. My sister turned out just fine, but for whatever reason I can't focus on most tasks for very long. That along with certain impulsory behaviors make me believe that it's not always in the parenting, but that it is also in the brainworks of certain individuals.

  • howdiditgettothis Sep 9, 2009

    Do you honestly think it is just ADHD folks who find it hard to concentrate on tasks they don't think are interesting........and that making school and work tasks "more rewarding" would improve ADHD performance?

    That's true for anyone. It doesn't take a scientist or a study to know that.

    ADHD/ADD or whatever you want to call it -- I'm thinking it is probably a case of neglected child being occupied with too much technology, tv, hand held devices, etc. and not enough
    attention from attentive parent(s).

    When we stop trying to keep up a certain indulgent lifestyle, and start focusing on our children (that we chose to have) -- then all this labeling will fall by the wayside.

    Some people are just plain lazy in parenting, and life in general.