Summary of ADHD: The Brain-Behaviour Connection by Dr. Joel Nigg Ph.D.

Summary of The Brain-Behaviour Connection - Dr. Joel Nigg Ph.D.

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!

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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.

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Pokémon GO – Your Answer to Exercise Resistance?

Pokémon GO! Could it be the key to motivation to exercise for ADHD children and adults?

Pokémon GO! is sweeping the nation as it is released in the UK today, but children are not the only ones giving it a try. Could it help motivate those of us who really struggle to find exercise enjoyable to get outside and start walking?

Admittedly, this is not the post I was expecting to write today for ADHD Mum of Three, as a respectable and responsible 36 year old mother surely I should be groaning at the thought of another app that is going to drain the hours out of the lives of my children, and let’s be honest, my life too.

I am a gamer, I always have been, it gets my brain working, I get drawn in and time disappears. We call games ‘time vampires’ in our house, and I was in two minds as to whether or not to download Pokémon GO or not as I was a huge fan of Pokémon games when they first came out in the 1990’s.

However, I have been trying to get more exercise recently, I joined Weight Watchers a little while ago and exercise is one of the things that is really promoted. I did well over the first two or three weeks, I bought a fitbit, just the little zip one, and I started going on walks in parks and countryside nearby. I was excited to get my first badges awarded on fitbit, and it helped my weight loss, but alas, my motivation started to fade.

It was just a bit too boring to be honest, I had a couple of particular places to walk but even on a sunny day I was finding it more of a frustration to drive there, walk the same route and see the same trees and flowers. I need something more, I’m terrible at appreciating natural beauty. It takes less than two minutes looking at a sunset or at beautifully landscaped gardens before my brain thinks ‘done that, what next…’. I’m a nightmare in museums!

So, would Pokémon GO be a possible answer to my problems?

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Signs of Inattentive ADHD – A Guide for Teachers, TAs and Other Professionals

Inattentive PI ADHD Classroom Identify List

Inattentive ADHD Can Be Overlooked in the classroom as it is Less VISIBLE than COMBINED or Hyperactive/ Impulsive ADHD

Around 5% of children are affected by ADHD, at a ratio of 2:1 girls to boys according to the DSM-5.1 Girls are more likely to present with Predominantly Inattentive ADHD (ADHD PI) whereby the child is not as likely to be a disruptive influence in the classroom as a child with Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD (ADHD PH/I), or classic ADHD, may be.

The signs of ADHD PI are much harder to spot because generally these children are trying to ‘fit in’ with their peers, not wishing to draw attention to themselves as they feel like they are not  achieving as well as they could do. I’ve heard children as young as 8 say that they don’t want to be ‘found out’ because people think they’re bright, but really they feel stupid because they keep making mistakes and feel like they need to try harder.

I wrote in my article about growing up with Inattentive ADHD that I felt invisible and in some ways that was what I was aiming for when I was younger, I didn’t want to stand out. I coasted through school managing to do fairly well but I could have achieved more if someone had been able to explain to me that my brain worked differently to my peers and that trying to be like them wasn’t going to solve all of my problems.

Medication could have helped with some of my symptoms, helping me to focus in lessons, and extra time in exams may have helped, but I think, more importantly, understanding why I couldn’t seem to do things like everyone else would have made a huge difference. I wasn’t just lazy or stupid, I was trying as hard as I could and every failure felt enormous, even if it was getting 9/10 on a maths test. Support from a teacher or another professional would have meant learning techniques and strategies to manage my time, organise my things and how to manage my emotions and build up my self-esteem.

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Why Inattentive ADHD Often Goes Unnoticed

Inattentive ADHD Classroom Child School Identify

Girls with ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed because they are more likely to present with Inattentive Symptoms

According to the DSM-5 ADHD affects about 5% of children but occurs in boys more than girls at a ration of 2:1.2

Often girls with ADHD stay ‘under the radar’ in the classroom because girls are more likely to have the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation of ADHD, rather than Combined or Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation. See my guide here to understand the terms and to gain an overview of the different symptoms that are linked to each presentation.

I was one of those girls, albeit at a time before there had not been as much research into ADHD – particularly in the UK. That’s me in the photograph up there, ironically highlighted when the reality was just the opposite. I am 7 years old in that picture and in the equivalent class of Year 3. That year my parents would be told at parent’s evening that I was a daydreamer, I never seemed to be listening and I wouldn’t finish my work as quickly as other children. I could do better if I just applied myself, if I just made more effort. I didn’t look particularly different and I certainly didn’t know I was different, I just though I was bad.

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