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Understanding the Adult ADHD Brain

A team of neuroscientists over at MIT recently uncovered some fascinating new insight into the brain of an adult with ADHD. 

In an article describing the findings, Inside the Adult ADHD Brain looks at comparisons of brain activity in adults who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, who either present with persistent symptoms, or are considered remitted (e.g. “recovered”).

image The researchers primarily looked at activity in the brain when the mind is ‘at rest’ and not focused on a particular task. In people without ADHD, we already know that when the mind is at rest, there is a synchrony of activity in brain regions known as the ‘default mode network.’ In people with ADHD (both children and adults), the ‘default mode network’ does not display this synchrony.

Some interesting new findings:

  • In adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as a child but have since recovered, the normal synchrony pattern seems to be restored (e.g. the brain now looks like those of people who never had ADHD)
  • However, both groups diagnosed with ADHD as a child (those recovered and those with persistent symptoms) showed continuing signs of impairment in executive function (the management of cognitive tasks)

What does this mean? Well for one, as the article states, it provides new evidence for the biological basis of adult ADHD. Secondly, it gives us insight into the potential life-cycle of ADHD symptoms from childhood to adulthood. This will also open the door for more specific research into how to apply these findings to potential treatment interventions. Most importantly, it’s really interesting to know something new about the ADHD brain!

 

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