ADHD and the Brain: 2 new high tech treatments, plus new brain research.

Wow! Two new high-tech ADHD treatments announced in one week! Wait, there’s more! Breaking research about the brain: MRI images can be used to detect psychiatric conditions.

I came across the ADHD articles on Tuesday during my lunch break. The news interview about the brain scan researcher aired during my Wednesday morning workout. All this technology collided together in my own brain during hamstring stretches.

Stretching in the morning clears my mind, relaxes me, and improves my focus. The implications of all this new technology were coming together in my brain. Imagine how this new technology will change, is changing, our medical options.

The First FDA Approved ADHD Medical Device:

What parent hasn’t heard lewd comments about how misbehaving ADHD kids should be given “shock treatments” to reprogram their brains? Come-on, I know you have heard it. The comments are rude and outdated. Medicine has come a long way since shock treatments were a valid treatment.

I my self was shocked to read that the new FDA approved ADHD medical device, in essence, applies low impulse shock treatments. In correct scientific terms, it uses low impulse electric pulse to stimulate the brain during sleep. The cell-phone sized transmitter sends the electric current to the brain via a patch adhered to the patient’s forehead.

Previous studies showed that certain areas of the ADHD brain appear to be under-stimulated. The electric impulses are attempting to stimulate select areas of the brain, in turn reducing ADHD symptoms.

Research behind the device indicates that ADHD symptoms improve over a period of 4 to 6 weeks. The improvements are of a similar degree as observed in patients receiving non-stimulant medications.

The new FDA approved medical device is targeted towards children aged 7 to 12.

More information on this device can be found on these websites:

ABC News: Parents cautious of new FDA-approved device for kids with ADHD

FDA Approves Breakthrough Medical Device to Treat ADHD in Children

New device could treat your child’s ADHD without medication

What I thought was really neat about this study: my chiropractic neurologist always talks about how everything you eat can change how neurons fire in the brain. What if the problem isn’t how neurons fire in the brain in general, but rather how specific neurons in specific areas of the brain? Can low impulse currents or “mini shocks” be targeted accurately enough to correct the firing pattern in the brain? Intriguing!

What scared me about this study: the articles I read said that the FDA approved this device based on a study of about 60 kids. In the realm of scientific studies, 62 is not a big population. The positive results that researchers saw could have been a fluke and should be replicated before making the device freely available. Is the FDA being too hasty with this approval, or are there more research details that were not shared in the article I read?

Virtual Reality as a Tool to Treat ADHD Symptoms:

First, screens are bad. Now, screens are good.

Researchers are in the midst of studying whether virtual reality can be used to acclimate children to classroom distractions. Sensory distractions would be introduced slowly so that ADHD kids would gradually get used to them. This is known as “exposure therapy.” Similar virtual reality exposure therapy has been successfully used to treat anxiety.

The researchers hope to create an app that any parent anywhere can download. Easy access, available to all. Wow!

What I thought was really neat about this study: I am already familiar apps like Habitica that turn every day into a computer game. Make your bed (in real life), score points in your app. Do your homework, high score. Add some sensory tools to Habitica and wow! Pay attention to the teacher while the girls behind you are giggling – new all-time record! I am excited to see the results of this study.

What scared me about this study: Parents are already using screens as babysitters. Guilty. When I am working my 9-5 from home and the kids are around (think summertime), I find it difficult being 100% focused on work while keeping the kids occupied with off screen activities. I am concerned that parents, including me, would be too likely to overuse an ADHD app.

MRI Research Shows a Connection between Brain Changes and Psychiatric Conditions

This week’s MRI research report focused on the brain changes observed in suicidal patients. How is this relevant to ADHD?  The researcher said that similar MRI brain scan studies have been done that targeted other psychiatric conditions. That got me thinking. Is ADHD a psychiatric condition and would an MRI study find brain changes in ADHD patients?

I looked it up and yes, the ADHD brain has been scanned, rescanned, then scanned again. The ADHD brain scan study looked at over 3200 patients. The ADHD brain has a tendency to be underdeveloped and some regions are under-stimulated. Since there are brain changes associated with the ADHD brain, then yes, ADHD can be considered a psychiatric condition. More on this here.

 With children, the thought is that maybe the brain is simply taking longer to mature and the symptoms of an immature brain is ADHD. Many children do outgrow ADHD symptoms. Some studies even found that children who are the youngest in their class tend to have a higher ADHD diagnosis than older children. More on this here.

The researcher studying the suicidal brain talked about the direction this type of brain scan technology is going. He hypothesized that in 10 or 20 years, doctors may be able to use brain scans to diagnose psychiatric conditions during regular office visits. Intriguing.

What I thought was really neat about this report: I appreciate when researchers think outside the box. By the box, I mean the “pill box.” I believe that doctors turn to pills a bit too often when trying to alleviate symptoms of medical conditions. I am not against medication. I am for looking at problems from more than one angle.

 What scared me: These researchers are focusing on the signs of ADHD (brain changes) and are losing track of the causes. I’d like to see more cross-discipline research studies. Correlate the hard signs of brain change with theories about what caused the brain change.

What is in the news in your hometown this week? Share your journey! This is your journey too. Liz.

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