What is Happening in the brain of children, teens, and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
The most recent models describing what is happening in the brains of people with Attention Deficit Disorder suggest that several areas of the brain may be affected by the disorder. These impacted areas include the frontal lobes, the inhibitory mechanisms of the cortex, the limbic system, and the reticular activating system. Each of these areas of the brain is associated with specific functions.
The frontal lobes help us to pay attention to tasks, focus concentration, make good decisions, plan ahead, learn and remember what we have learned, and behave appropriately for a given situation.
The inhibitory mechanisms of the cortex keep us from being hyperactive, from saying things out of turn, and from getting mad at inappropriate times, for examples. They help us to “inhibit" our behaviors. It has been said that 70% of the brain is there to inhibit the other 30% of the brain. When the inhibitory mechanisms of the brain aren't working as hard as they ought to, then we can see results of what are sometimes called “dis-inhibition disorders" such as impulsive behaviors, quick temper, poor decision making, hyperactivity, and so on.
The limbic system is the base of our emotions and our highly vigilant look-out tower. If over-activated, a person might have wide mood swings, or quick temper outbursts. He might also be “over-aroused, " quick to startle, touching everything around him, hyper-vigilant. A normally functioning limbic system would provide for normal emotional changes, normal levels of energy, normal sleep routines, and normal levels of coping with stress. A dysfunctional limbic system results in problems with those areas.
The Attention Deficit Disorder might affect one, two, or all three of these areas, resulting in several different “styles" or “profiles" of children (and adults) with Attention Deficit Disorder. This is why we have identified six different “types" of ADHD, and describe each at the ADHD Information Library. Along with a description of each different type of ADHD is a specific treatment strategy to consider using specific amino acid combinations from targeted nutraceutical medicines that are widely available today on an over-the-counter basis. These strategies can be highly effective when specifically targeted to the right “type" of ADHD.
When EEGs of ADHD children are compared to non-ADHD children, often we find that the Attention Deficit Disorder children show excessive slow brainwave activity (theta and alpha ranges) compared to non- ADHD children's brain activity. The slow brainwave activity indicates a lack of control in the cortex of the brain. Lack of control. . . pretty descriptive of Attention Deficit Disorder kids. Medications, EEG Biofeedback training, Attend Nutraceuticals, and some other interventions, try to change this and normalize this, at least temporarily.
What causes these various systems of the brain to get out of balance with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder individuals? Why would these systems become under aroused or over aroused? Is there one central system that controls or regulates these other systems?
The answer may be found with the Reticular Activating System which we will discuss in the next article. You can learn more information about the neurology of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder the ADHD Information Library.
Douglas Cowan, Psy. D. , is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net , helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL. , is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.