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OSU researchers suggest a better way to identify kids with attention disorder

A child with ADHD doesn’t like to do things that require sitting still.

Cognitive tests are used to identify a variety of symptoms and deficits associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. But researchers from Ohio State University pointed out that such tests often fail to capture the complexity of ADHD symptoms.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : January 4, 2021 11:47 AM IST

Adding computer simulations to cognitive testing methods may help better identify symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, say researchers.

ADHD is a common mental disorder that affects millions of children. While it is usually first diagnosed in childhood, it can continue through adolescence and adulthood. The brain disorder is characterized by inattention, above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviours.

Cognitive tests are used to identify a variety of symptoms and deficits associated with ADHD, such as selective attention, poor working memory, altered time perception, difficulties in maintaining attention and impulsive behaviour. But researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) pointed out that these cognitive tests often fail to capture the complexity of ADHD symptoms.

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In a review published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, the researchers proposed that computational psychiatry - comparing a computer-simulated model of normal brain processes to dysfunctional processes observed in tests - could be an important supplement to the diagnostic process for ADHD.

A single task-based test is not enough to diagnose ADHD

Children with ADHD take longer to make decisions while performing tasks than children who don't have the disorder. Usually tests rely on average response times to explain this difference. OSU researchers said that a computational model could help pinpoint several intricacies related to this dysfunction and provide information that clinicians, parents and teachers could use to make life easier for kids with ADHD.

"We can use models to simulate the decision process and see how decision-making happens over time - and do a better job of figuring out why children with ADHD take longer to make decisions," IANS quoted Nadja Ging-Jehli, lead author of the review, as saying.

Furthermore, the researchers said that since children with ADHD have so many biologically based differences, a single task-based test is not sufficient to make a meaningful ADHD diagnosis.

Causes and Symptoms of ADHD

It is not clear as to what causes ADHD. But several factors are linked to it, including inherited genes, imbalance of brain chemicals, things that can affect a baby's brain development (poor nutrition, infections, smoking, drinking, and substance abuse during pregnancy), and brain injury or a brain disorder.

ADHD is most commonly diagnosed among boys than girls. The brain disorder is usually spotted during the early school years, when a child begins to have problems paying attention. Although it can't be prevented or cured, spotting it early, along with a good treatment and education plan, can help a child or adult with ADHD manage their symptoms better. Below are common symptoms associated with ADHD that parents and teachers should watch out for:

Children with ADHD:

  • Gets easily distracted
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Do not like to do things that require sitting still
  • Tend to daydream
  • Can't stay seated (they often squirm, fidgets, or bounces when sitting)
  • Talks excessively
  • Forgets about daily activities

Symptoms of ADHD may change as a patient gets older. An adult with ADHD may have trouble controlling anger and gets easily frustrated. Other symptoms of ADHD in adults include anxiety, low self-esteem, impulsiveness, mood swings, depression, trouble concentrating when reading or staying organized.

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