More kids are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 8.8% of children were diagnosed in 2011, compared with 7.0% in 2007.
An uptick was also witnessed in the number of parents choosing to medicate their children with stimulants such as Ritalin. That proportion now sits at two-thirds.
ADHD is perhaps childhood’s most common neurobehavioral disorder. It’s characterized by an array of symptoms, including squirming, excessive daydreaming, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity. Scientists still can’t precisely pinpoint what’s going on in the brain to trigger ADHD, but it’s evident that something is amiss. Children with ADHD generally have reduced brain volume in the left pre-frontal cortex.
But the lack of a conclusive causal mechanism in the brain leads many onlookers to conclude that ADHD is a manufactured condition. Its symptoms are merely side effects of childhood, they argue. But this is not in agreement with evidence stemming from genetics. Thanks to large twin studies, a number of genes have been implicated, particularly those that affect dopamine transporters. The dopamine system of the brain regulates a whole heap of processes, but it’s most commonly linked with reward seeking. As far as ADHD goes, we know that when dopamine levels are driven up within the brain, ADHD symptoms lessen in severity.