led to many misunderstandings about the syndrome.
Many doctors, therapists,
social workers, and coaches
tried to teach ADHD children to slow down using the
self-control methods that
neurotypical children use.
They thought they were
programming the right
“Take a deep breath and
press the following buttons
on your activity thermostat” makes sense if the wiring is standard, but not if the wires are connected differently, as they are
in children and adults with ADHD. Brain imaging is starting
to let us trace the wiring, so we can untangle the misconceptions that experts, as well as those with ADHD, have about the
disorder and the brain. Our new understanding of the brain
promises to change the way we treat ADHD.
The Brain Up Close
Researchers use structural imaging, which provides two- or
three-dimensional pictures, to uncover the anatomy of the
brain. Computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic reso-
nance imaging (MRI) are examples of structural imaging
buttons wasn’t helpful if the instructions weren’t getting to
A few days later, I met an office neighbor. When I told him
about my problem, he proposed another theory: “Your thermostat doesn’t work. My thermostat controls your air conditioner. We aren’t really sure if it controls my offices. No matter
how much I lower it, we’re always too hot.” A little more
investigation revealed that his thermostat didn’t control my
office, and that no one—not even the building’s owners—
understood the wiring.
Understanding how ADHD brains are wired is critical for
understanding how to explain and treat the disorder. For
decades, we weren’t sure how ADHD brains worked, and this
YOUR AMAZING ADHD BRAIN
The more we “see” the ADHD brain with neuroimaging, the more
we understand how it works. Over the next eight pages, learn about
the latest discoveries about the ADHD brain.
BY TAMARA ROSIER, PH.D., AND OREN MASON, M.D.
ON A HOT SUMMER DAY IN MY NEW OFFICE, MY CLIENT AND I WERE shivering cold. “The air conditioning is hyperactive, maybe?” I jokingly wondered as we pulled on sweaters. I turned the thermostat up to 76 degrees, then 80, but the cold air wouldn’t stop.
“Our HVAC system seems overactive,” I explained later to my husband.
“Could it be too big for the office space?”
“It’s probably the thermostat, not the air-conditioner,” he said. His insight
didn’t warm my office, but it made sense. It wasn’t a cooling-system problem,
but a control-system problem. Punching temperature control