The Newest Info From ADHD Research

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/23/2020

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a developmental disorder that includes high activity levels, trouble with concentration and attention, lack of impulse control, and issues in work, school, and social life. This is most often found in children when they begin going to school but can also be discovered in adults.

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Adults Can Have ADHD Too

In fact, over 10 million adults have been diagnosed with ADHD. If you think you may fit the criteria, take an ADHD test online. It does not take long, and you do not have to sign up for anything. But it can help you get treatment if you find out you may need it. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Constantly being in motion
  • Frequent fidgeting and squirming
  • Has trouble following instructions
  • Talking a lot and interrupting others
  • Gets distracted often
  • Frequent anger outbursts
  • May not be able to finish tasks
  • Not paying attention to details
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Losing things often
  • Often forgetful
  • Avoids tasks that take a lot of mental effort
  • Difficulty organizing things

Some Of The Newest Research

Researchers are constantly trying to find out more about ADHD, as well as other mental health conditions. Thousands of new studies and research projects begin every day and will continue until we know enough about the illnesses to prevent them or treat them more effectively. Below are some of the most recent research findings.

How Children And Adults Are Diagnosed

The way children and adults are diagnosed is being revised into two separate groups or types. The first one is the inattention group, and the second is the hyperactive-impulsive group. The way diagnoses will be changing is how the experts categorize the symptoms. For example, in the inattention group, you will find concentration issues, not listening, forgetfulness, and trouble organizing. The hyperactive-impulsive group includes talking too much, having trouble sitting still, and interrupting others. Other criteria include:

  • To be diagnosed with one of these types of ADHD, children have to have at least six symptoms, while adults only have to show five symptoms.
  • The symptoms have to be present for at least six months, and several of them must have been noticed before the age of 12.
  • Symptoms must be shown in two or more settings, such as work and school.
  • There must be evidence that these symptoms are interfering with work, school, or social functions.
  • The symptoms must not be better explained by any other mental disorder.

The Three Categories Of ADHD

The presentation is also now considered and has been separated by symptoms. Based on the symptoms above, experts can choose from three different categories of ADHD, which include:

  • Predominantly Inattentive if you have inattention symptoms but not enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for the last six months.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive if you have enough hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms but not the inattentive symptoms in the last six months.
  • Combined Presentation if you have enough symptoms in both categories for the last six months.

Impressive New Data About Digital Treatment

A new digital treatment for children who have been diagnosed with ADHD has shown promising results. The treatment, EndeavorRx, was approved by the FDA and has demonstrated a positive increase in children's social and attention skills who used it.

Half of the 206 children in the study who have ADHD and completed two months of treatment were found to show fewer attention deficit symptoms overall. This was done by having the children work the program for one month, stop for one month, and then complete another month of the program. In fact, even during the off month, the children showed fewer symptoms of ADHD attention symptoms.

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Two-thirds of those who did two months consecutively were found to have fewer symptoms during the second month. EndeavorRx is similar to a computer game that targets key attention control systems in the brain. Using sensory stimulation and simulation, the games help your child train their brain to focus.

Medical Complications During Pregnancy

Other new studies have found that many physical illnesses may increase the risk of ADHD in children. For example, one study by the NYU School of Medicine found that having a low level of hormones in the body during the first three months of pregnancy can affect the infant’s brain development. This, in turn, is a possible cause of ADHD.

The women in the study were diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which causes a low level of hormones due to the thyroid gland's reduced activity. This study found that mothers diagnosed with hypothyroidism during the first three months of pregnancy were 24% more likely to have a child with ADHD. The study has triggered more research and screenings of hypothyroidism in pregnant women during their first trimester.

Does Vitamin D Help to Relieve ADHD Symptoms?

Another study done by researchers in random controlled trials found that vitamin D supplementation may help reduce symptoms of ADHD. The studies ranged from six to 12 weeks, and the doses given ranged from 1,000 IU per day to 50,000 IU per week.

Many of those who took the supplements did better on their behavior, hyperactivity, and inattention scores. The numbers varied by study, but the results were considered to be statistically significant in all of them. However, in some of the trials, vitamin D was given to those already on ADHD medication.

Squirming And Learning May Go Together

Several dozen trials have been done recently that found children with ADHD may learn better if they move around more. According to one study at the University of Central Florida (UCF), the children who were allowed to swing their legs, tap their foot or fingers, or just move around in their chairs were actually doing this to figure out complex cognitive tasks.

Fifty-two boys from eight to 12 years old were part of the study done by UCF that found those who were allowed to move around were able to solve puzzles and problems faster and more accurately. Some were allowed to sit on activity balls or exercise bikes while working. Experts believe that their lack of focus when not moving is due to their concentration on sitting still. In other words, they were using their brain to concentrate on sitting still, so they could not concentrate on their work.

The ADHD Brain Is Built Differently

According to experts, neuroimaging reports show that there are structural differences in the ADHD brain. There is proof from several studies that those with ADHD have a smaller basal ganglion and prefrontal cortex. Also, their brains have a decreased volume of the cerebellar vermis. This is the part of the brain that works with sensory input from the head and spinal pathways.

This is not to suggest that there is brain damage or that surgery is needed to correct such things. It is just a new way to understand why some people have ADHD, while others do not. In some who seem to be forgetful or less organized, it may just be that their brains are not structured the same as others.

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What’s more, the decrease in brain volume as those with ADHD grow into adulthood can cause poor memory function and may even have something to do with dementia in old age. Studies done at Cambridge indicated that the group diagnosed as children were more likely to be forgetful when they are young adults. According to the images, the scientists found less gray matter in the brain's nucleus that supports memory.

Playing Sports In School May Help Reduce ADHD

According to HealthDay News, females in elementary school who played after-school sports had fewer symptoms of ADHD when they get to middle school. Although the study was done on both males and females, the findings were only significant in girls. The study was conducted on 1,500 children in Quebec aged six through 10.

Of those children diagnosed with ADHD, the ones who played sports in school had fewer symptoms of the illness by the time they were 12 years old. According to the researcher, organized sports teach kids to focus and listen to what they are being told. And since it is a sport they enjoy, they are more likely to train their brains to concentrate.

Some Of The Risk Factors Of ADHD

These studies, as well as thousands of others, are being conducted every day on ADHD as well as other mental health disorders. The researchers hope that they can determine what causes these illnesses so they can be prevented, if possible. Right now, some of the risk factors include:

  • Having other mental health issues like anxiety or depression
  • Physical health problems like traumatic brain injury or tumor
  • Being born prematurely
  • Exposure to toxins as a child-like lead or other metals
  • Having a mother who did drugs, drank alcohol, or smoked during pregnancy
  • Genetics or having a family history of mental illness
  • Nervous system disorders during development years.

New Treatments

New treatments are being explored every day, including therapies, medication, and behavioral modification forms. Other types of treatments include vitamins and mineral supplements or herbal remedies. However, it is best to talk to your doctor or therapist before changing your course of treatment. If you do not have a therapist yet, you can talk to a therapist online right now, no appointment is needed. You do not even have to leave your house. To take the first steps to address your symptoms today, take an ADHD test online.