High Dopamine Levels Alone Do Not Cause ADHD
> 12/1/2006 11:56:51 AM

In a near reversal of prevailing opinion and years of clinical practice, researchers at the Brookhaven National Labratorydetermined that high levels of dopamine receptors in the brain are notsolely responsible for attention deficit problems and that, in fact,some patients diagnosed with related disorders displayed lower levelsof activity in the same receptors. Most importantly, the extensivestudy's adult subjects had more pronounced problems with attention thanthose in the control group regardless of recorded dopamine levels.These findings suggest that earlier efforts to focus on those specific brain chemistry defects were incomplete and that immediate extensions of the new research are in order.

Thenumber of American children and young adults diagnosed with andmedicated for ADHD is rapidly rising, but its causes and definitionsare still frustratingly imprecise. Though drugs like Ritalin have beenprescribed for children since the early 60's, The National Institute of Mental Health only named ADHDas a legitimate psychological condition in 1998, after related clinicalvisits increased nearly threefold in the previous seven years. By allmeasures, genetics appear to play a key role in determining whichchildren will ultimately display symptoms of the disorder. Childrenwith other inborn neurological conditions are much more likely to bediagnosed with ADHD, and those with siblings or parents who haveattention problems show a considerably greater instance of ADHD. Commonopinion has long held that difficulties with pregnancy or earlyexposure to controlled substances and environmental toxins contributeto the likelihood of ADHD diagnoses, but extensive research has notconfirmed these theories.

Dopamine transporters are proteinsthat attach to and absorb excess quantities of the chemical, and anoverabundance of these can theoretically serve to lower the amount ofthe chemical distributed throughout the brain, resulting in decreasedattention and motivation. The measured levels of dopamine in thesubjects of previous research varied widely, and these studies oftenfailed to control for existing medications, drug abuse, or neurologicaldisorders, so Brookhaven researchers made sure to include only subjectswho were not affected by these variables. While they regularly recordedlower levels of the transporters in ADHD subjects, inattention scoresfor affected subjects were still five times higher when their dopaminelevels matched those of the control group. So the protein shortagescommon in adults with ADHD are more likely to be influenced by the condition than to causeit. This finding strongly contradicts previously held beliefs about thecause and effect relationship between dopamine and ADHD.

Morethan three million children in the United States alone currentlyreceive treatment for ADHD. While some unquestionably benefit frommedications like Ritalin or Adderall, well-funded and opposing campshave developed to address  public concerns about the potential foroverpresciption and recreational use of these drugs. This study, usingbrain imaging techniques funded by the Office of Biological andEnvironmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office ofScience and by the Intramural Research Program of the NationalInstitutes of Health, indicates that current treatment methods areinaccurate and possibly counterproductive. Luckily, more than oneorganization has a seeded interest in continuing research which couldlead to more effective medicines and related therapies in the nearfuture.


Any rational person would want to know why "disorders" such as ADD and ADHD have seen such rapid increases.Even after one factors in typical anwers like "increased awareness" and "over diagnosis," the fact is that there has to be something to the rapid rise in this.Why not blame Television? It makes perfect sense, and it isn't hard to study.http://pediatrics.about.com/b/a/077604.htmIn fact, there is even a similar link to autism.http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/profiles/waldman/autpaper.html
Posted by: Bruno 12/1/2006 3:15:41 AM

You're right to bring up television as a suspected contributing factor. Though (unfortunately) very little official research on the topic exists, I hold the private belief that its negative influence stretches far beyond the obvious fact that kids who watch excessive amounts of TV are much more likely to have problems with motivation and body mass. The constantly shifting sounds and images of the small screen certainly seem to encourage shorter attention spans. When occasionally glancing at popular programs for kids (as well as "adult" shows like CSI), I'm struck by the absurd number of quick cuts and rapid editing techniques. After a steady diet of this kind, is it any surprise that kids are less likely to pay attention to words on a page? There is undoubtedly some great programming for kids, but the average american adolescent watches almost 24 hours of tv every week, and this number is absolutely ridiculous.Also, for further information on the emerging evidence of a tv/autism link, check out this November blog post on TOLEducation:https://www.toleducation.com/treatments.php?id=982
URL: http://toleducation.com
Posted by: BlogMeister 12/4/2006 11:27:26 AM

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