This article looks at attention deficit and learning disabilities and talks about the biology behind ADHD and why it can be so difficult to diagnose. Click here for Part 1.
Neurotransmitter Deficiencies In ADHD Brains
Brain scientists have found that deficiencies in specific neurotransmitters underlie many common disorders, including anxiety, mood disorders, anger-control problems, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
ADHD was the first disorder found to be the result of a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter — in this case, norepinephrine — and the first disorder found to respond to medications to correct this underlying deficiency. Like all neurotransmitters, norepinephrine is synthesized within the brain. The basic building block of each norepinephrine molecule is dopa; this tiny molecule is converted into dopamine, which, in turn, is converted into norepinephrine.
ADHD seems to involve impaired neurotransmitter activity in four functional regions of the brain:
The Relationship Between ADHD & the Frontal Cortex
This region orchestrates high-level functioning: maintaining attention, organization, and executive function. A deficiency of norepinephrine within this brain region might cause inattention, problems with organization, and/or impaired executive functioning.
The Relationship Between ADHD & the Limbic System
This region, located deeper in the brain, regulates our emotions. A deficiency in this region might result in restlessness, inattention, or emotional volatility.
The Relationship Between ADHD & Basal Ganglia
These neural circuits regulate communication within the brain. Information from all regions of the brain enters the basal ganglia and is then relayed to the correct sites in the brain. A deficiency in the basal ganglia can cause the information to “short-circuit,” resulting in inattention or impulsivity.
The Relationship Between ADHD & the Reticular Activating System
This is the major relay system among the many pathways that enter and leave the brain. A deficiency in the RAS can cause inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity.
These four regions interact with one another, so a deficiency in one region may cause a problem in one or more of the other regions. ADHD may be the result of problems in one or more of these regions.
ADHD Neurotransmitters Trial and Error
We don’t know which brain region is the source of ADHD symptoms. Nor can we tell whether the problem lies with a deficiency of norepinephrine itself or of its chemical constituents, dopa, and dopamine. Thus, doctors must rely on clinical experience to determine which medication to try for each child, and at what dosage.
Someday, when our knowledge of the brain is greater, the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD will be more nuanced. Instead of diagnosing simply “ADHD,” and prescribing a stimulant, we might be able to recommend specific therapies that deliver striking results.
Here at Neurohealth Associates, we specialize in Neurofeedback treatments. Neurofeedback may be helpful for treating ADHD symptoms, especially if you are unsure about putting yourself or your child on medication. The easy, noninvasive treatments can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life. Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth today and find out how we can help you.
Original article posted by ADDitude Mag.