So this post is to summarise some of the current thinking in neuroscience around ADHD as discussed by Dr. Joel Nigg, Ph.D. in a free webinar on ADDitude which aired on 28 June 2016. My intention is to make webinars like this one a bit more accessible to the everyday person who might get a little lost in all the scientific jargon. I studied A-Level Biology and Chemistry and then Applied Genetics and the University of Liverpool before transferring to a Business Management degree so I have a reasonable basic scientific understanding, but I struggle to follow some of the webinars, I can’t be the only one!
Neuroscience Basics (How the brain works)
Very basically, the brain consists of different areas, each playing a different role in helping us to function. These areas are connected together by axons, like little wires, which are wrapped in something called white matter or myelin sheath, like insulation. This insulation helps to transmit messages from one part of the brain to the other without losing any information so any damage to this can prevent the brain from working properly.
Up until now there has been a lot of focus on the actual brain tissue, the grey matter, with a suggestion that there is a slight reduction in the amount of grey matter in ADHD brains but now there is a shift in focus to the white matter, the insulation around the wires connecting the areas of the brain.
The white matter develops over time as we grow from infant, to child, to adult but in ADHD brains there seems to be slower development of this layer, and it can be underdeveloped, or thinner, than in ‘neurotypical’ brains. This would therefore explain why the brain does not function as it should do.