Brain clues to attention disorder

Matthew Kirkcaldie Matthew.Kirkcaldie at removethis.newcastle.edu.au
Fri Nov 21 01:51:48 EST 2003


In article <3fbd9960 at dnews.tpgi.com.au>,
 "John H." <johnh at faraway.com.au> wrote:

> Another myth bites the dust, though the evidence of ADHD being a real
> condition has rarely been in dispute by those who read the research.
> Hopefully this finding will further our understanding of this condition,
> which I have no hope of understanding.
> 
> 
> John H.
> 
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3284629.stm
> 
> Scientists have found differences in the brains of children with
> attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
> University of California Los Angeles researchers found some areas of the
> brains of the children were smaller, and but others had more grey matter.
> 
> .....

London cabbies have different grey matter volumes in the hippocampus 
than matched controls.  As far as I know, nobody has used this to argue 
that cabdriving is genetically controlled, or that being a taxi driver 
is a "real condition".

My point being, if a child behaves consistently differently, or is given 
neuroactive drugs for a long period, their experience of the world 
differs.  That difference can show up in brain structure, without the 
need for a genetic or pathological basis.  If you raise a kitten with 
one eye closed, the large scale structure of its visual cortex is 
radically different, despite the lack of a genetic difference or a 
pathogen.

This is one of the most common misconceptions about brain development - 
and it's common because it's very subtle and perhaps counterintuitive.  
However, if we regard the brain as an organ whose primary function is to 
adapt its structure to the experience it receives, the issues become 
clearer.

I'll get off my hobbyhorse, this is a topic I frequently get into when 
lecturing!

      Cheers,

         Matthew.



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