A Neurobiological Discovery for Teen ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a psychological illness that has gained increasingly more attention in the last 20 years. The American Psychological Association (APA) included the disorder in the clinician’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in the 1980’s.  Since then, there has been extensive research and study on it because it is a diagnosis given to a lot children. A recent discovery in neurobiological research points to the area of the brain that might be affected in those who have the disorder as well as abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline.


ADHD is a disorder characterized by difficulty in paying attention to details. It includes symptoms of impulsivity, hyperactivity, making careless mistakes, trouble listening to others, problems with organization, and distractibility. It typically shows up in children around age 7 or 8. Below are some common symptoms of teen ADHD.


  • Hyperactivity, impulsivity, but not usually accompanied by elation or grandiosity
  • Problems with distractibility, attention, organization, and memory are consistent.
  • Moods do not fluctuate widely.
  • The age of onset is usually under 10 years old.
  • More common in boys
  • Irritability, accelerated speech, and increased levels of energy are symptoms that are stable.


About five percent of American children and teens have ADHD yet this number could indeed be higher given the amount of children are diagnosed with the disorder. As of 2011, research indicates that eleven percent of children between the ages of 4 and 7 have the illness, and added to this, the amount of ADHD diagnoses has risen significantly in recent years. In fact, the rate of diagnosing ADHD to children has increased at a rate of three percent per year from 1997 to 2006 and at a rate of five percent per year from 2003 to 2011.


A few reasons for the significant rise in ADHD cases could be the fast paced way of life, including many pieces of information grabbing for an individual’s attention. A student can go from their computer to their Ipad to a text on their Iphone and back to the computer. There’s little opportunity to stay focused on one task unless a child or teen makes a conscious effort to do so. Furthermore , some believe that mental health professionals have been over diagnosing  teen ADHD which may be contributing to the increase of ADHD cases.


It’s important to know as parents that about 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to experience its symptoms throughout adolescence and adulthood. It’s estimated that four to five percent of adults have ADHD but only 20 percent of them are actually diagnosed while only 1/4 seek mental health services.  Children, teens, and adults can manage its symptoms through medication, behavior modification, and therapy.


New research on the neurobiology of ADHD sheds light on the area of the brain affected by the disorder as well as the excess amount of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline.  This particular neurotransmitter is associated with alertness, concentration, and focus. It is sometimes known as norepinephrine and acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, It is associated with the “fight-or-flight” response in the body, and it affects the mind’s ability to concentrate. An imbalance in noradrenaline is associated with behavioral changes, including those characteristic of ADHD.


In the past, there have been other neurobiological causes of ADHD discovered by research teams. However, this recent finding indicates the origin of the disorder. Experiments using mice found that when the superior colliculus of the brain was stimulated, it caused the same behavior problems seen in those with ADHD. Along with this, researchers found an accumulation of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline in this area, which shows that this chemical plays a role in attention disorders as well.


This particular research reveals another neurobiological origin for ADHD symptoms (dysfunction in the superior colliculus of the brain and regulation of noradrenaline levels). It can therefore widen the treatment approach for ADHD in children and teens, as well as adults.  This information can aid treatment experts in developing new and innovative therapeutic methods, including better meditation that might be more effective than the stimulants that are often prescribed for teen ADHD. Advancements such as these not only shed light on the disorder but provide hope for those who suffer from it.




Friedman, J. (2014). The Neurobiological Origin of ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-neurobiological-origin-of-adhd/00019390