Thursday, June 23, 2022

ADHD and Learning

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a disorder many people are diagnosed with as children. Symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsive decision making, difficulties concentrating (Johansen et al., 2009). Back in 2009, 5% of kids worldwide were diagnosed with this disorder and in 2016 the number jumped to around 10% of kids worldwide had ADHD (Johansen et al., 2009). ADHD amongst kids makes it especially difficult for them in school to learn new things. As a 22-year-old adult recently diagnosed with ADHD, I can attest to this. Paying attention in class and retaining information made it difficult for me, and others alike, to do well on quizzes, tests, homework, and even post-high school tasks. I've tried many things such as various studying techniques, medications, calendar-keeping, and journal writing to help keep my life from derailing from the tracks. There has been numerous times where these techniques have helped, but mostly didn't. 

    I've always questioned why retaining and memorizing information was so hard for me. I found an article about altered reinforcement effects in ADHD which can help explain why some learning reinforcements can be perceived different to a brain of someone with ADHD. In our brain, we have catecholamines which are responsible for response selection and memory formation (Johansen et al., 2009). We also have dopamine which is important for reinforcement of good behavior (Johansen et al., 2009). When there are changes, or alterations in these two important parts of the brain, there is a delay in responses and retention. This is called the delay of reinforcement gradient (Johansen et al., 2009). This specific delay is responsible for missing pieces of memory, lack of attention, random memories of irrelevant events, and a decreased amount of dopamine (Johansen et al., 2009). These pieces of information help therapists treat children and even adults with ADHD. Because our brains work a little differently than the average's, therapists have to use specific therapy techniques to correspond with our delayed brains. If you are reading this and have diagnosed ADHD and can't remember where you put your keys that are you in your hand, you can now blame your catecholamines.

Johansen, E., Killeen, P. R., Russell, V. A., Tripp, G., Wickens, J. R., Tannock, R., Williams, J., & Sagvolden, T. (2009). Origins of altered reinforcement effects in ADHD. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 5(1), 7.

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