ADHD Defined –
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic
neurobiological condition marked by a specific group of symptoms which
include inattention, hyperactivity and low impulse control. It is
estimated that ADHD affects 3-7% of children over the age of 7. There
is currently no cure for the disorder, but it can be managed with a
multi-discipline treatment plan.
Types of ADHD –
Psychiatrist and Specialist Dr. Daniel Amen has identified six
different types of ADHD, each subgroup containing its own distinct
symptoms. However, three types of ADHD are commonly recognized, with
the distinction based on which symptoms are most prevalent.
Predominately Inattentive – This type of ADHD
is often referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It
is characterized by a much shorter attention span as compared to the
Predominately Hyperactive-Impulsive – Focus is
less impaired while impulsivity and activity are excessive.
Often these individuals are described as "having ants in their pants",
being unable to to sit still for a second, or "just like the energizer
bunny- they keep going and going and going..."
ADHD Combined – With this type, Inattention,
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity are equally strong.
Childhood vs Adult Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder - Most cases of ADHD are
diagnosed in childhood, though some go undiagnosed until adulthood. New
studies suggest that up to 60% of those diagnosed in childhood continue
to suffer symptoms as adults. The symptoms of Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder in adults are virtually identical to those in
children. However, by adulthood many people with ADHD, have found tools
and modified their behavior as to minimize the effects of (or work
around) the disorder.
Potential causes –
The root causes of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are still
unknown. The disorder appears to have an inherited genetic component.
Much of the research of causes indicates links to brain structure
(smaller temporal and frontal lobes), brain chemistry (imbalances in
neurotransmitter levels), diet as well as possible exposure to toxic
ADHD and Memory - How does ADHD affect memory?
Working Memory - ADHD
primarily affects working memory. Working Memory is a specific kind of
short-term memory where information is stored briefly and is made
available for computation or manipulation. Researchers have studied
ADHD and working memory extensively and found that a weak or
dysfunctional working memory is one of the primary causes of many of
the executive function problems many people with ADHD experience.
Executive Function is “the manager of the mind”. It includes the
ability to organize, plan, problem solve, self-regulate emotions and
resist distractions. Central to healthy executive function is a strong
Professor Susan Gathercole , a Cognitive Psychologist and researcher from the University of York does a great job of explaining working memory.
Selective Attention -
A second way ADHD can affect memory is through a weakness in selective
attention. Selective Attention is the ability to focus on one piece of
stimuli (task, thought or sound) exclusively.
Researchers use the term "The Cocktail Party
Phenomenon" to illustrate how selective attention should work. When involved in a
conversation in a room full of conversations, most people will be able
to focus on the conversation in which they are engaged (how it should work). Those with
ADHD; however, find tuning out the other conversations or sounds in the
room much more difficult. In fact, some people with ADHD would say they
can hear not only their conversation but every conversation, all the
sounds of forks on plates, ice in glasses, etc. The key point is the system most
people use to filter important and unimportant stimuli (sights, sounds and thoughts) does
not work...or does not work properly. While the lack of selective
attention does not directly affect memory, being overwhelmed by
unimportant stimuli will most certainly influence whether something
important is remembered or not.
Manage ADHD and Improve Memory
There are many memory options available to help
people manage memory problems and other the symptoms of ADHD. They
include both prescription medication and natural non-drug alternatives...as follows:
- Medications commonly prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms are either
stimulant or non-stimulant based. Stimulant-based medications make up
the bulk of the medications prescribed for ADHD and are thought to
restore the natural balance of neurotransmitters within the brain, they
Ritalin is a
stimulant which has long been prescribed as a treatment for ADD and
hyperactive disorders. As other medications have come on the market,
Ritalin's popularity has waned, however, the practice of prescribing
Ritalin for depression is on the rise.
the same stimulant as Ritalin (Methylphenidate) but is formulated as a
time-release capsule which is effective for 12 hours rather than the
4-6 hour effectiveness of Ritalin.
a combination of four different stimulants. It is considered to be a
more powerful drug than Ritalin, with lower reported instances of
anxiety and agitation but is more likely to cause insomnia.
Vyvanse is one of
the newest drugs used for ADHD treatment. It is a psychostimulant and
may be tolerated with lesser side-effects than mixed-stimulant
Non-Stimulant ADHD Medications are gaining in
popularity as the long-term effects and potential for abuse of
stimulants become more widely know and understood, and they include:
Strattera is a
norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRI). Initially intended as an
antidepressant, the drug is now primarily prescribed as a treatment for
ADHD. Strattera has less potential for abuse than stimulant medications
and a single dose provides 24-hour coverage.
Intuniv is often
taken alongside one of the above stimulants, but can be used alone to
control mild ADHD symptoms. It helps improve attention by regulating
prefrontal cortex activity.
Managing ADHD Without Medication
- Many people have concerns about the powerful ADHD medications
frequently prescribed for treatment of ADHD. This concern has led to a
search for natural and homeopathic remedies as alternative ways to
improve memory and treat other ADHD symptoms. They include:
Working Memory Training
– There are a variety of visuo-spatial and verbal cognitive improvement
exercises available (both on the Internet and through specific
programs) intended to strengthen the working memory. These exercises
are designed to develop sustained attention and focus, while using the
short-term working memory to complete tasks and computations.
Exercise – One of
the keys to a healthy brain is regular physical activity. Children and
adults with ADHD will reap secondary benefits from frequent exercise.
Sleep – Studies
have shown that restful sleep allows the brain to recharge, repair and
transform short-term memories into long-term memory. Both children and
adults who struggle with ADHD and short term memory problems should be
sure to get plenty of restful (REM) sleep.
ADHD Diet – The non-profit Feingold Association is the primary proponent of controlling
ADHD through diet. Dr. Feingold and many others believe that synthetic
food additives are responsible for a number of health and behavioral
problems. The link between ADHD and diet however remains a
controversial one as patient responses to this treatment remain mixed.
Those interested in treating ADHD without medication may want to try
Dr. Feingold's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Diet which
includes restrictions on a variety of food additives including
artificial coloring, flavorings and sweeteners as well as certain
Whether follow the Feingold Diet or not consuming certain foods known
to improve cognitive function can also boost your brainpower and
memory. Foods such as Blueberries, Salmon, Eggs, Mixed Nuts and Whole
Grains have been shown to improve concentration, memory and clarity.
Natural medication for ADHD - These include herbal
supplements like Gingko Biloba, Brahmi, Siberian Ginseng, Gotu Kola and
Green Oats, which are recommended by Homeopathic Specialists as
treatment for ADHD without medication. Practitioners of Chinese
Medicine also recommend a number of herbal medications for adhd
symptoms, including Tiaoshen Liquor and Calm Dragon Formula. It is
always important to discuss any proposed new treatment with your
primary caregiver before beginning a treatment regimen.
Meditation – A recent Duke University study has
linked the practice of Mindfulness Meditation to a decrease in ADHD in
symptoms for teenagers and adults. This particular kind of meditation
quiets the mind and narrows focus and will improve memory.