Eight to ten percent of school-age children are currently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
It is a behavioral condition in which a person cannot focus or control his/her own behavior.
It is more common in boys than girls.
Doctors sometimes find it difficult to diagnose ADHD because there’s a fine line between normal child behavior and the excesses found with ADHD.
The condition is most often treated with pharmaceuticals with Ritalin being the most common. Medical professionals welcome any help with diagnosis because a misdiagnosis can result in improper medication.
“Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what’s expected of them but have trouble following through because they can’t sit still, pay attention, or attend to details.
“Of course, all kids (especially younger ones) act this way at times, particularly when they’re anxious or excited. But the difference with ADHD is that symptoms are present over a longer period of time and occur in different settings. They impair a child’s ability to function socially, academically, and at home.”
ADHD began as “Defect of Moral Control” in 1902. Its name has been revised over the years but the characteristics of hyperactivity and an inability to focus are the same. The incidence of ADHD in American children increased from seven percent in 1998 to nine percent in 2009 and is steadily rising. Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD lessen as children mature; they “grow out of it”.
There is No One Known Cause for ADHD.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have devised a test for ADHD that they feel is “foolproof”. The test observes and measures involuntary eye movement in anticipation of optical stimulation. In two groups of twenty-two adults each, one had been diagnosed with ADHD and the other not. The tests were run twice: once with the ADHD group unmedicated and again after taking Ritalin. The results of the tests found that the people in the ADHD group were unable to suppress eye movements. After medicating, ability to control increased to the average of the control (non-ADHD) group.
“This test is affordable and accessible, rendering it a practical and foolproof tool for medical professionals. With other tests, you can slip up, make ‘mistakes’–intentionally or not. But our test cannot be fooled. Eye movements tracked in this test are involuntary, so they constitute a sound physiological marker of ADHD.
“Our study also reflected that methylphenidate [Ritalin] does work. It is certainly not a placebo, as some have suggested.”
Here are Some Issues Which are Glossed Over by People Excited Over the Test.
“Involuntary eye movements” means blinking and microsaccades (small jerky movements). The subjects knew something was coming and started to blink more. Hardly conclusive evidence of a behavioral disorder.
“Involuntary” means it’s not a conscious action. Even after fifty years of prescribing, doctors still don’t know how Ritalin works. A recent study found that it affects both dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain but no one is sure what that translates to for modifying neural messaging. The drug makes the person less sensitive to stimuli as evidenced by its effect on involuntary eye movement. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.
The study was performed on adults. Most people are diagnosed (and medicated) as children. Children and adults behave differently and their chemistries are different.
After taking Ritalin, the ADHD group was better able to control their involuntary eye movements to the average of the other group. That means that there were some people in the control group who had less control than the ADHD group.
The test was performed under only one set of conditions, that of taking TOVA (Test of Variables of Attention), an established diagnostic tool for ADHD. The conclusions don’t support a general finding; a much more varied set of situations would need to be studied to support the hypothesis.
The Eye Movements Measured are Normal and Occur Throughout the Animal Kingdom.
Anticipatory in nature, they are necessary to obtain and process information about what we see. Microsaccades have been studied in people in various circumstances, such as soccer goalies, typists, and artists.
When it comes to their being involuntary, “anticipatory” saccades are based on prior learning, like a tennis player expecting the ball to land in a particular spot based on the speed and spin with which it was hit.
“Premature” saccades result when someone is bored or unengaged–the eyes dart about, looking for a stimulus. This test doesn’t differentiate. Perhaps people who are diagnosed with ADHD have in common an extraordinary visual ability to notice changes and anticipate the next step in a process.
It Would be Interesting to see Those Folks Play Tennis Against a Control Group.
Alternatively, or in addition, the more active eye movements may be compensating for other limiting sensory factors or physical conditions.
A 2003 study published by the Salk Institute in California found a genetic link between people with ADHD and Gulf War Syndrome and their sensitivity to organophosphate chemicals.
Researchers found that this type of substance–used in common pesticides and military nerve gases–caused inhibition of a particular gene that mediates neurological transmitters, resulting in abnormal hyperactive behavior.
Common Chemicals may be Causing the Increase in the Number of Children with ADHD.
Artificial food coloring has also been associated with damaging genetic and carcinogenic activity, causing many European countries to ban it. Very common in processed foods–especially those marketed to kids–these chemicals can be contributing to the behavioral disorders that have become so prevalent.
Sodium benzoate–a common preservative–has been found to cause ADHD, in addition to cancer and allergies.
So while this new test may lead to other productive research, it would be hard to label it as “foolproof”, especially in such a limited application. For the benefit of the people–more importantly, children–who are diagnosed (and medicated) for ADHD, perhaps we should proactively look to remove the toxins that are causing its proliferation.