What can we learn from the latest research on ADHD?

Attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) includes a whole range of symptoms that impair the everyday life of its sufferers including disorganization, frustration, hyperactivity and concentration difficulties. ADHD is very misunderstood, but is a disorder that usually affects children and often continues into adulthood.

ADHD and the latest research

Originally, it was thought that different areas of the brain were responsible for different learning difficulties. Researchers have now discovered that that these difficulties, including ADHD, are created by poor connections between the different regions of the brain, which cause a lessening of efficient communication.

Initially, scientists struggled to find specific areas within the brain of individuals that could cause ADHD and other learning difficulties that are associated with cognitive or behavioral problems.

What differs in the brain of those with ADHD?

However, researchers at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University have recently tested a hypothesis that there are no faults in brain areas by mapping the brain of 479 children. Of the group, only 337 participants had learning-related cognitive problems, and the rest were present as a comparison sample.

Machine learning was used to map the differences from cognitive, learning and behavioral samples and brain scans were taken using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Their findings were interesting and all the children’s brains were organized around hubs that resembled a very efficient social network. The children with the well-connected hubs had either no cognitive difficulties or very specific ones, like poor listening skills.

However, those with severe cognitive problems were the children whose hubs were poorly connected and according to the scientists this connectedness prohibits sharing between the different areas of the brain.

Diagnosis may be important to families, but according to Dr Astle, the senior author on the study, these can be a distraction, and it’s better to offer these children support using specific interventions in the areas of cognitive difficulties that can increase language competency, improve listening skills or how to reduce working memory demands while learning (something that helps the whole class).

Do drugs help ADHD?

This research also explained why drug treatments, like Ritalin (Methylphenidate) for ADHD, are not always effective for developmental disorders, because they reduce hyperactivity, but don’t improve or remediate cognitive difficulties and learning progress. These drugs cannot impact the organization of the hubs because they target specific types of nerve cells. These days many countries are using Vyvanse medication and depending on future research, it may still become mainstream although we are not there yet.

Coping with ADHD

People usually feel mixed emotions when they, or a loved one is diagnosed. These emotions may include relief – because they finally understand previous behavioral problems – anger, frustration, and sadness.

There is no need for the diagnosis to be shared with everyone, but there are some people that need to know. Both children and adults usually need the support of a therapist, and ADHD support groups are also invaluable.

Treatment options and medications vary and medical professionals change these when there are any changes to the ADHD. Medication needs to be taken regularly and care needs to be taken not to repeat a dose accidently, something that’s not unusual with ADHD sufferers.

Lifestyle changes often help to decrease the symptoms. Structure is important for ADHD sufferers and they cope better when they learn to be more organized.

Self-care is vital because people with ADHD often forget themselves with tasks that they enjoy and forget to rest, eat or even go to the bathroom. Exercise and recreational activities help children, and adults with ADHD get a good night’s sleep.

ADHD need not disrupt the daily life of sufferers and the findings of the latest research will be the first step in helping with diagnosing it sooner so that sufferers can understand and work towards learning to overcome some of its symptoms.