Neuroscientists Find Potential Cause of Focus Issues in ADHD Kids

According to a group of neuroscientists, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex-a region of the brain designed to orchestrate mental activity-works much harder but potentially less efficiently in children with ADHD.

According to a group of neuroscientists, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex—a region of the brain designed to orchestrate mental activity—works much harder but potentially less efficiently in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This finding was presented at the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience on Sunday in Washington, DC, and it could hold answers as to why there is such a struggle for children with ADHD to focus on more than one thing at a time.

According to a survey from the US Health Resources and Services Administration, ADHD has become more common since 2003. ADHD affects roughly two million US children, and it is still not understood how basic neurobiology is responsible for the mental ailment.

"Our findings suggest that the function as well as the structure of this brain area is different in children with ADHD," said Wayne State University biologist Tudor Puiu. "It might explain the cognitive problems we see in the classroom."

The researchers tracked the neural activity of 19 children suffering from ADHD and 23 non-ADHD children. Using a functional magnetic imaging scanner, they studied the brainwaves of the children, who were asked to remember a simple sequence of letters. Scientists found that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a critical mental control area in the brain, worked overtime and possibly was less efficient in children with ADHD.

At the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience, with over 31,000 brain researchers in attendance, the neuroscientists reported that this basic variation in brain function could be the cause of the impulsivity and focus issues that make concentration in the classroom difficult for children with ADHD. These findings add to accumulating biomedical evidence that individuals diagnosed with ADHD suffer from unusual patterns of brain function that may possibly continue into adulthood.

Thus far, it is known that the brain of a child with ADHD develops the same as any other child’s, but the maturing process can take up to three years longer. Scientists in a separate study reported they had found that ADHD children display dissimilarities in the caudate nucleus (a region of the brain associated with learning and memory) in comparison to unaffected children.

"These networks are disrupted," reported Mr. Puiu. "The ADHD brain has to work harder than the normal brain."