For children with ADHD, there us a direct relationship between the motivation to complete an activity with the rewards they get when they have completed the task. This could explain why there is such a variation in attention from one activity to the next. After all, playing a video game with a lot of action gives their brain more stimulation and rewards than learning vocabulary words in a classroom.
Researchers at the Universitat Aut noma de Barcelona studied the brain circuits involved in the development of ADHD. They found variations in certain aspects of attention related to the brain’s dopamine-mediated pleasure center as it related to gratification and motivation.
The team focused on the pleasure circuits and neuron areas within the brain’s reward system, the ventral striatum. This part of the brain is in charge of maintaining levels of motivation and reinforcement from the beginning to the end of a task. In children with ADHD they believe there must be a large and immediate reward system in place or the motivation levels drop quickly.
In the study, 84 youths between the ages of 6-18 were divided according to whether they presented ADHD symptoms or not. From them, 42 had been diagnosed with ADHD, in the other, the control group, there was no indication of any behavioral problems. They were paired according to age and gender.
MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Images) of the subjects showed the brain structures of all participants, and found differences in the structure of the ventral striatum, particularly on the right side of the brain, in those diagnosed with ADHD. This region of the brain showed less volume in ADHD patients, and these differences were associated with symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
This study reinforces previous finding as to the importance of the reward system in relation to impulse behavior and development of hyperactivity. From studies like this researchers have come to believe that ADHD is caused by alterations in the brain that affect cognitive learning. They also believe that these abnormalities that can cause motivational shortcomings.
When learning and retaining memory it is important to pay attention. In order to enhance their memory and cognitive functions ADHD patients will need to overcome their motivational vs. reward problems in order to encode their short-term memory.
There is medication available to manage and level out dopamine in the brain that will serve to increase natural reward incentives. Although many are against the use of video games, but in the case of ADHD it may be a way to control their behavior and teach them at the same time. It definitely is worth exploring more.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
Memoryzine.com – Paying Attention To The Pleasures Of ADHD: http://memoryzine.com/2011/07/30/finding-the-pleasure-in-adha/
Wikipedia — Reward System: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reward_system
NIDA, National Institute for Drug Abuse — Introduction to the Reward System: http://www.nida.nih.gov/pubs/teaching/Teaching3.html