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.
About 3 percent to 5 percent of adults in the United States have some form of ADHD, the researchers noted.
The current medications given to children with ADHD already enhance motivation because they target the dopamine pathway, Volkow said.
But the finding should also 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.
Even children with ADHD can concentrate on tasks they like and find engaging, such as computer games, she noted. The trick is to bring that same level of engagement into the classroom, she said.
"It's a great opportunity to develop curriculum that is much more exciting and engaging for kids suffering from ADHD," Volkow said.
Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital in New York, said the study "provides further evidence that dopamine deficiencies in specific areas of the mid-brain are likely responsible for ADHD."
"Since many believe that ADHD results from reward and motivational deficits, this study provides further support for this association," he said.
"Patients and professionals must recognize, however, that despite research advances identifying differences in the brains of patients with ADHD, the diagnosis of ADHD remains a clinical one," Adesman said. "ADHD cannot be diagnosed by neuroimagin
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