ADHD has neurobiological origin, study confirms

A study carried out on mice has just confirmed the neurobiological origin of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a syndrome whose causes are poorly understood. Researchers have identified that hyper stimulation of the superior colliculus causes behaviors similar to those of some patients who suffer from ADHD. They report that norepinephrine accumulates in the affected area, confirming that this neurotransmitter plays a role in attention disorders.

ADHD affects between 4-8% of children. It manifests mainly through disturbed attention and verbal and motor impulsiveness, sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity. About 60% of these children still show symptoms in adulthood. No cure exists at this time.

Effective treatments include psychostimulants and neurofeedback. Persistent controversy surrounding the neurobiological origin of this disorder has hindered the development of new treatments.

The study in Strasbourg investigated the behavior of transgenic mice having developmental defects in the superior colliculus. This structure, located in the midbrain, is a sensory hub involved in controlling attention and visual and spatial orientation. The mice studied were characterized by duplicated neuron projections between the superior colliculus and the retina. This anomaly causes visual hyperstimulation and excess norepinephrine in the superior colliculus. The effects of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which vary from species to species, are still poorly understood. However, we do know that this norepinephrine imbalance is associated with significant behavioral changes in mice carrying the genetic mutation. By studying them, researchers have observed a loss of inhibition: for example mice hesitate less to penetrate a hostile environment. They have difficulties in understanding relevant information and demonstrate a form of impulsiveness. These symptoms remind us of adult patients suffering from one of the forms of ADHD.

Currently, the fundamental work on ADHD uses mainly animal models obtained by mutations that disturb dopamine production and transmission pathways. In mice with a malformed superior colliculus, these pathways are intact. The changes occur elsewhere in the neural networks of the midbrain. By broadening the classic boundary used to research its causes, using these new models would allow a more global approach to ADHD to be developed. Characterizing the effects of norepinephrine on the superior colliculus more precisely could open the way to innovative therapeutic strategies.

Journal Reference:
Chantal Mathis, Elise Savier, Jean-Bastien Bott, Daniel Clesse, Nicholas Bevins, Dominique Sage-Ciocca, Karin Geiger, Anaïs Gillet, Alexis Laux-Biehlmann, Yannick Goumon, Adrien Lacaud, Vincent Lelièvre, Christian Kelche, Jean-Christophe Cassel, Frank W. Pfrieger, Michael Reber. Defective response inhibition and collicular noradrenaline enrichment in mice with duplicated retinotopic map in the superior colliculus. Brain Structure and Function, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00429-014-0745-5
Brain Structure and Function.

ADHD and Marriage: How ADHD Affects Relationships

Does your husband or wife constantly forget chores and lose track of the calendar? Do you sometimes feel that instead of living with a spouse, you’re raising another child? Your marriage may be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Is ADHD affecting your marriage?  Mental health experts note that attention problems can take a toll on adult relationships.

In a marriage, the common symptoms of the disorder — distraction, disorganization, forgetfulness — can easily be misinterpreted as laziness, selfishness, and a lack of love and concern.

It is estimated that at least 4 percent of adults have ADHD; about 10 million U.S. adults, with only about 1.2 million of affected adults in treatment, and with many adults having never received the diagnosis as children.

As many as half of all children with A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with symptoms as adults.

Symptoms can include trouble with maintaining employment or completing schooling, marital difficulties,  financial challenges, repeated driving violations/tickets,

Adults with attention disorders often learn coping skills to help them stay organized and focused at work, but experts say many of them struggle at home, where their tendency to become distracted is a constant source of conflict.

Some research suggests that adults with ADHD are  twice as likely to be divorced; another study found high levels of distress in 60 percent of marriages where one spouse had the disorder.

Spouses of adults with ADHD often feel they cannot count on their partner. They may feel that the spouse is not dependable such that the unaffected spouse must take responsibility for everything.

Sometimes the unaffected spouse can become chronically angry, frustrated that they dont help around the house, that they are inconsiderate, or that they cannot count on the spouse to complete simple tasks such as running to the bank, paying bills on time, or picking up the kids. They may feel they have no choice but to constantly nag to make sure things get done.

Spouses with attention deficit, meanwhile, are often unaware of their latest mistake, confused by their partner’s simmering anger. A lengthy to-do list or a messy house feels overwhelming to the A.D.H.D. brain, causing the person to experience paralysis, and they accomplish nothing, which further infuriates their spouse. This does not happen due to laziness or selfishness, it happens due to the difficulty with task planning and organization.

Although treatment often starts with medication, it typically doesn’t solve a couple’s problems. Talk therapy may be needed to unpack years of accumulated resentments.

Behavioral therapy and coping strategies — for both partners — are essential. Long, to-do lists given to the spouse with ADHD will not be productive. instead, asking that one task at a time be targeted is more helpful.