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ADHD is Linked to Brain's Reward Pathway

ADHD and Brain

A new study was published today and researchers of the study, from the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, stating that children with ADHD are missing a protein in the part of their brain that is linked to the brains reward pathway.

"This pathway plays a key role in reinforcement, motivation, and in learning how to associate various stimuli with rewards," says Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and lead researcher on the study. Recent studies have found that children with ADHD don't respond to rewards in the same way as children without ADHD. Volkow states, "In addition to the classic symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity, there is also a disruption in motivations and sensitivity to rewards."

Brain imaging tests run by US researchers show a lack of dopamine in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dopamine is a chemical in the brain essential to normal functioning of the nervous system. The chemical is vital for helping trigger behavior involving motivation and reward. This can result in reduced levels of attention and behavioral concerns and confirm that ADHD can be linked to the brains reward pathway.

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Among those with ADHD, the researchers found disruptions in the two dopamine pathways associated with reward and motivation. The finding, according to the researchers, lends support to the theory that ADHD is a result of problems in dopamine pathways in the brain that affect both reward and motivation.

Volkow believes that this is the first definitive evidence that patients suffering from ADHD have lower-than-normal levels of proteins essential for activating the brain's reward system. She said “These deficits in the brain's reward system may help explain the clinical symptoms of ADHD, including inattention and reduced motivation, as well as the propensity for complications such as dug abuse and obesity among ADHD patients.”

Discovering that ADHD is linked to brain's reward pathway is only good news for people suffering from ADHD and teacher. These findings should be considered a "wake-up call for teachers," she said. Knowing that the problem is one of motivation, teachers could devise methods to provide "extra engagement" for these children, Volkow said. “It's a great opportunity to develop curriculum that is much more exciting and engaging for kids suffering from ADHD," she says.

BBC News