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They discover unusual features in the brain of people with ADHD

They discover unusual features in the brain of people with ADHD

March 1, 2021

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD It is one of the neurodevelopmental disorders most known to most of the population. Often overdiagnosed, this disorder can involve different types of difficulties that limit the normative functioning of the child in areas such as academic or even social interaction.

Although it has sometimes been considered that the symptoms present in this disorder correspond to a delay in the maturational development of certain brain areas, recent investigations have detected the presence of proper traits in the brain of people with ADHD , which can help understand the causes of this phenomenon.


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ADHD: a neurodevelopmental disorder

Let's start with the fundamental: what is ADHD? It is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the presence of symptoms linked to attention deficit and possible hyperactivity and impulsivity . These symptoms are persistent, and last for a period of time exceeding six months. In addition, they do not correspond to the level of development of the subject or to the experience of traumatic situations that may cause said symptomatology.

At the level of diagnosis, the presence of at least six symptoms of inattention such as carelessness of details, difficulty in paying attention, difficulty in completing tasks or following instructions or forgetfulness, repeated loss of objects, forgetfulness or the facility to be distracted even when a task is being done.


For hyperactivity to be considered, they must also appear a minimum of symptoms such as motor restlessness, inability to remain still , I do not respect the turns of word or action, the interruption of the activities of others or the logorrhoea. Impulsiveness and the presence of difficulties in controlling one's own emotions are also highly frequent. It is important to bear in mind that this disorder can occur with both hyperactivity and without it (in this case we would be in attention deficit disorder or ADD).

ADHD or ADD is a problem that requires treatment and that although it is usually diagnosed in children, they are present in both children and adults (Approximately two-thirds of patients will continue to have symptoms in adulthood). Some of the symptoms may disappear as the subject grows and their brain finishes developing or they will learn mechanisms to avoid or overcome their difficulties.


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Explanatory hypotheses

ADHD is a complex disorder that has received different considerations regarding the causes that cause it. Some of them link it to the existence of brain alterations, and in fact a slower pattern of brain development has been observed in certain areas of the brain in people diagnosed.

Specifically, the evidence that has been considered in recent years points to a maturational rhythm of the frontal lobe comparatively less than expected given the child's age. This corresponds to the presence of alterations in executive functions and difficulties in inhibition of behavior, attention or focus of attention. Also, this explains why some of the symptoms may decrease with age.

Also also it has been observed that there is a problem in the arousal or level of cortical activation in subjects with ADHD, which generates difficulties when it comes to regulating the level of activity and the management of environmental demands. In this sense it has been seen that the brains of patients with ADHD tend to have a lower amount of brain dopamine and serotonin than subjects without this problem.

Character traits of the brain of people with ADHD

The exploration and search for elements that explain the disorder continue to be aspects of great importance that can help a better understanding of both the problem and the way in which it can act to help those who suffer it.

A meta-analysis of multiple investigations carried out by neuroimaging has concluded that there are structural and functional alterations in the brain of patients with ADHD that cause or influence the presence of the symptomatology. Specifically, it has been observed, in addition to the presence of a delay in the development and maturation of the frontal lobe, the existence of subcortical alterations (that is, below the rough cortex that covers the brain).

One of the common alterations in these patients is the presence of a smaller size of the basal ganglia, linked to learning, the development of patterns of motor behavior , motivation, emotional management and executive functions.

Also alterations have been observed in the limbic system, the "emotional brain". These anomalies are found especially in the amygdala and the hippocampus, elements have great importance in the processing and management of emotion, memory and motivation. These alterations they are especially visible in the amygdala, which has a smaller size and development than in subjects without this problem.

Although these discoveries they should not make us neglect the presence of psychosocial factors and its influence on the appearance of this disorder, the results of these investigations help to provide a better view of the biological aspects related to the condition of ADHD and may end up contributing to develop more efficient ways of dealing with this problem.

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Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Barkley, R. (2006) .Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Third Edition: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment, Guildford Publications. New York
  • Hoogman, M. et al. (2017). Subcortical brain volume differences in participants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults: a cross-sectional mega-analysis. The Lancet. 4 (4), 310-319. Elsevier

How Einstein's Brain Is Different Than Yours (March 2021).


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