Archives for May 2011

Is ADHD Real?

In a word, YES! I know ADHD is real because I see adults with ADHD every day and know deeply their struggles and challenges.

However, there are a lot of skeptics in this world who wouldn’t just take my word.

Luckily, researchers have been busy in the past few decades compiling hard evidence, to show that ADHD is real, and NOT ‘made up modern disease’.

The evidence that has been gathered shows that genetic, biological, and environmental factors all play a role in ADD.

Genetic studies found that there is a strong genetic component to ADD. For example, if one member of the family has ADD there is a high probability at least one other member also has it.

It is thought that genes DAT1 (dopamine transporter) and DRD4 (dopamine receptor) are involved. However, a child can inherit ADHD genes and not have ADHD. This is because a combination of both genes and the environment determines if the ADHD genes are activated.

The biological factors include differences in the ADHD brain compared to the non ADHD brain.

Anatomical differences: differences in the size and function of the corpus callossum which connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and mediates communication between the two.

Also, irregularities found in the basal ganglia (which are associated with motor control, cognition
and learning).

Chemical differences:
ADHD is associated with impaired functioning of certain neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine.

Functional differences:
Brain functioning differences in people with ADHD have been found in the frontal lobes, limbic system and parietal lobe.

Environmental factors also play a part. These non-genetic factors  included anything that will effect brain development  from prenatal to childhood. For example, low birth weight, brain injury, prenatal contact with alcohol, lack of oxygen at birth, etc. The biggest environmental factor influencing the expression of ADHD is maternal smoking.

Researchers have also been able to identify that sugar, food, food additives and allergies do NOT cause ADD. Nor is ADD caused by parenting style or a busy life style.

To conclude, there is lots of evidence to show that ADHD is real.

Neurotransmitters and ADHD 101

 

Neurotransmitters and particularly dopamine are important if you have ADHD.

A neuron is a nerve cell located in the brain.  Information is passed from one neuron to another via a junction (called a synapse) in either chemical or electrical forms. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that transport information between neurons.

The brain has hundreds of different neurotransmitters and they are responsible for everything from sleep, heart rate to fear and anxiety, to mood and temperature.  Some of the ADHD neurotransmitters that are often talked about are dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin.

There is a body of researchers who are interested in brain chemistry and how neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, (which are responsible for attention and activity) operate differently in an ADHDer compared to a non ADHDer.

In the brains of people with ADHD dopamine levels are different to the rest of the population. For example, they might be lower than expected, or there is a problem with the levels of the protein (called DAT) that carries dopamine between locations or the actions of dopamine are less effective in some areas of the brain.

Prescribed medications like Ritalin and Adderall work by blocking dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake so there is more of the neurotransmitter in the synapse.  Adderall also causes more neurotransmitters to be produced.

There are things you can do to help your brain chemistry naturally and increase your levels of dopamine:

1) Exercise
When you exercise your brain produces more dopamine.  Find an exercise you love and do it every day.

2) Take Omega 3
Omega 3 increases your levels of dopamine.  Take a supplement as well as including more Omega 3   rich foods in your diet.

When you meditate you also increase your dopamine levels.  Check out my blog for more details on how to do meditate.

4) Vitamin C
Include lots of Vitamin C in your diet.  Vitamin C is very helpful in ensuring the dopamine synapses  is working well.

Got questions about ADHD?   Then leave a comment!