What is the Focus of ADHD Research?

Ken Black
Ken Black
A child with ADHD playing.
A child with ADHD playing.

There is no single focus of research into attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Rather, the overall goal is to not only work on finding a solution or cure, but also understanding the condition's root causes. To do this, scientists must first understand how the ADHD individual is different than the rest of the general population. This includes not only looking at neurological differences, but also at differences in overall academic and social performance. Improving those performances, through drug therapy or teaching methods, is also a key part of the research.

If ADHD research can help uncover why the brain acts differently for those with the condition, there may be a way to counteract those physiological processes, or at least determine what causes them. Through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging techniques, it has been discovered that development in the brain of an ADHD individual proceeds along a normal course, but is slowed in the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that is especially important for attention and control of actions. A focus of ADHD research is to find out what causes this to take place.

ADHD research also focuses on drug therapy, which is widely regarded as providing the best chance to help those already afflicted. While there are some who respond to certain types of drugs, others show no benefit from the medications. Current ADHD research is focused in part on this mystery. The most common drugs used are Ritalin®, Adderall®, and Concerta ®. Studies involving the effectiveness of these drugs are widespread.

Currently, there is a debate over some of these drugs, with contradictory studies being published. A study released in 2009 by the University of California at Berkeley suggested that children on ADHD drugs earned higher test scores than ADHD children not on medications. Another study in the same year, the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD, suggested there is very little impact at all. These two studies drawing opposite conclusions would suggest the issue is far from settled.

Educational methods are another area of ADHD research that focuses on solutions to the problem. Often, the ADHD child cannot perform as well in a traditional school using traditional teaching methods. Therefore, research focuses on how to teach those children through the use of multimedia and other tools. It also studies the best ways to break up the day, the optimum times for teaching, and how to deal with bad behavior events. The research also looks at the benefit of early intervention and how getting treatment started early may improve the prognosis.

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    • A child with ADHD playing.
      By: Elena Stepanova
      A child with ADHD playing.