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ADHD, It’s Really Real

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

To those people who insist that ADHD does not exist and that children are being wrongfully medicated the American Journal of Psychiatry published an impressive piece of research that proves beyond any doubt, the reality of this diagnosis. Dr. Michael Stevens, MD designed a study to explore the regions of the brain affected when subjects are performing certain tasks. The subjects were divided into groups of people with and without ADHD. During the performance of these tasks the brains of the subjects were scanned by fMRI.

What is an fMRI?

An fMRI is a variation of the MRI, which is a non invasive method of looking at what is happening internally when someone is ill. MRI refers to Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The MRI provides doctors with exceptionally clear pictures of the inside of a patient’s body. An fMRI does the same with a major difference. The letter "f" refers to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging which means that activity in the brain, for example, can be traced. In other words, a living picture is provided by this technology.

As a result of this technology, Dr. Stevens was able to trace the activity of brain cells or neurons while subjects were performing tasks. He was also able to see how different parts of the brain were functioning at the time of the fMRI. The study clearly showed that the brains of subjects with ADHD are different than subjects without the disorder. In addition, the differences occurred in the parts of the brain having to do with allocating attention. In effect, the brains of the subjects with ADHD were unable to distinguish between important stimuli in the environment versus background noise.


When shown to doubting parents, the fMRI pictures leave no doubt about the need for medication that allows youngsters to focus their attention on what is important without being distracted by things that are unimportant.


Dr. Stevens study coincides with additional research recently published by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Health, showing that the brains of children who have ADHD are three years less mature than those of normal children. The particular areas of the brain that are less developed affect the ability to control impulses. This explains some of the hyperactivity found in many of these children.

The good news is that most of these children’s neurological systems and brains do catch up with their peers so that they become better able to control themselves by adulthood. Of course, this maturing process may not occur in every individual or at the same rate of speed. There are vast numbers of adults who have ADHD and do not realize it. Among adults, this remains highly under diagnosed and under medicated.

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