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UCF study: Hyperactivity enables children with ADHD to stay alert
Date:3/9/2009

A new University of Central Florida study may explain why children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder move around a lot it helps them stay alert enough to complete challenging tasks.

In studies of 8- to 12-year-old boys, Psychology Professor Mark D. Rapport found that children with and without ADHD sat relatively still while watching Star Wars and painting on a computer program.

All of the children became more active when they were required to remember and manipulate computer-generated letters, numbers and shapes for a short time. Children with ADHD became significantly more active moving their hands and feet and swiveling in their chairs more than their typically developing peers during those tasks.

Rapport's research indicates that children with ADHD need to move more to maintain the required level of alertness while performing tasks that challenge their working memory.

Performing math problems mentally and remembering multi-step directions are examples of tasks that require working memory, which involves remembering and manipulating information for a short time.

"We've known for years that children with ADHD are more active than their peers," said Rapport, whose findings are published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. "What we haven't known is why."

"They use movement to keep themselves alert," Rapport added. "They have a hard time sitting still unless they're in a highly stimulating environment where they don't need to use much working memory."

Rapport compared the children's movements during the tests to adults' tendency to fidget and move around in their chairs to stay alert during long meetings.

The findings have immediate implications for treating children with ADHD. Parents and educators can use a variety of available methods and strategies to minimize working memory failures. Providing written instructions, simplifying multi-step directions, and u
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Contact: Chad Binette
cbinette@mail.ucf.edu
407-823-6312
University of Central Florida
Source:Eurekalert  

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