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Brain Development in an ADHD Brain

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ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a developmental mental disorder that affects three to five percent of school age children.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “ADHD is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsiveness, or a combination. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for the child's age and development.” As part of the ADHD diagnosis, children must have six inattention symptoms, or six hyperactivity-impulsiveness symptoms. The cause of ADHD is unknown, though previous neuroimaging studies showed that children with ADHD may have different levels of serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine. However, recent research by the NIH suggests that ADHD is due to different brain structure developments.

In November 2007, the NIH released their findings from a neuroimaging study. 446 participants, 223 of whom had ADHD, underwent brain scans. Researchers found that children with ADHD had slower developing brains, but only in certain areas. While sensory processing and motor control areas in the brain developed equally in both test groups, the frontal cortex development in children with ADHD was delayed. Development of the frontal cortex peaks during the teen years, according to the NIH, while development of the sensory processing and motor control area peaks during childhood.

The difference in development of the frontal cortex, which controls thinking, attention and planning, is not permanent. The NIH study showed that thickness of the cortex peaked on average at age 10.5 for children with ADHD; children who did not have ADHD had cortex thickness peaking on average at age 7.5. “Otherwise, both groups showed a similar back-to-front wave of brain maturation with different areas peaking in thickness at different times,” according to the NIH. The conclusion of the study was that even though children with ADHD had a delayed maturation of the frontal cortex, they caught up developmentally within three years.

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EmpowHER Guest

The developmental delay mentioned is but one piece of the ADHD puzzle. It is not present in all children labeled ADHD. Dopamine receptor problems have been identified as well as genetic links. The truth is, absolutely no one knows what causes ADHD. Even knowing the cause may not affect an outcome. Do we just push a different pill at this?

As a former elementary school principal, I am quite aware that attention difficulties are just the tip of the iceberg. ADHD children can't filter out distractions, finish tasks on-time, use their memory optimally, etc. A pill doesn't teach these skills.

My wife and I opted to use cognitive training for our son, Alex. We used Play Attention (www.playattention.com) and ADHD Nanny (www.adhdnanny.com). We've been very successful with these approaches. We also changed our parenting skills with great success.

It's just important to know that medicine teaches nothing. Parents and teachers must actively participate to help change a child's life.

As parents we need to remember that there's more to do than just medicating over the summer. I'm aware that 1 - 4 months of academic achievement are lost over the summer by the average student. It was far worse than that for our son, Alex. Thus, we began the next year with a big deficit. Not anymore.

October 7, 2009 - 8:29am
EmpowHER Guest


Please follow this hypothesis:
Plastic is the cause of the rapid rise in autism.
The human brain works primarily by electrical energy. Plastic is an excellent insulator. Plastics photo-degrade; they get smaller but remain as plastic. During the time of fetal neural development, at the moment that the nerves should make connection, they are blocked from doing so by a piece of plastic. I believe the autistic mind produces the same amount of electrical energy and that energy has fewer areas of diffusion. This is evidenced by the heightening the various senses experienced by the autistic individual. Note the rapid rise in autism in the last twenty years and consider the time it would take for the plastics to infiltrate our ecosystem or the direct ingestion of photo-degraded liquid by pregnant women.
I am aware of how much is said about the effects of plastic but I have never heard of it in the above context; that the plastic itself is acting as insulating particles in the electrically based environment of a developing fetus’s brain resulting in neural dysfunction…as if there was a small piece of plastic blocking the neurons from connecting.
The easiest way to see this is to take a plastic bottle of drinking water and freeze it. Let it thaw and sit. Turn it upside down, turn it into the light and see the shiny plastic particles descend in the water that you are about to drink. These larger pieces will be filtered out, but what about the particles from this source and the rest of the environment?
I believe that this hypothesis bears investigation.

October 6, 2009 - 11:43am
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