A pair of new studies has provided new insight into the challenges faced by children on the autism spectrum who exhibit symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the findings from researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), these children have difficulty with adaptive behavior, a key measure of independence.
Additionally, researchers pinpointed weaker functional connections in two large brain networks in children on the autism spectrum who have co-occurring ADHD symptoms.
The first study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, analyzed adaptive behavior, a key measure of how a person is able to function independently at home, school and in the community. Communication skills, self-care skills and social skills are examples of adaptive behavior. Many of these skill areas are often impaired in children on the autism spectrum, and the gap between autistic children and typically developing children widens during adolescence. Understanding factors that contribute to adaptive behavior impairments may reveal critical points for intervention.
As more and more people discuss mental health issues in public forums, it seems to be lifting some of the stigma surrounding the topic. New research reveals that the number of students seeking help for mental health problems has risen considerably between 2009 and 2015.
Sara Oswalt, from the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the lead author of the new study, which was published in the Journal of American College Health.
According to estimates that the scientists cite, around 26 percent of people aged 18 and above in the United States live with a mental health condition in any given year.
In a sign of the times, new USC research shows that some kids stressed out over recent public acts of discrimination show increased behavioral problems.
The study focused on Los Angeles-area teens from communities of color or families with limited education. Many of the youths reported concern that discrimination is a growing societal problem. The more worried the teens were, the worse their substance use, depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms became, the study shows.
The findings are a snapshot into the adolescent mind during a time of rising U.S. political tensions and concern about increasing discrimination in society. It also coincides with the beginning of new social policies proposed by the Trump administration, which the scientists note might affect mental health for the youngsters.
The tech sector is built on bright minds developing new solutions to create economic or social impact. This fast-paced industry has high stakes, which require people to meet even higher expectations. Many individuals within the sector — especially startup founders — have small teams (meaning each person serves in multiple roles), work long hours, second jobs or are still in school and constantly worry about “making it.”
At the DMZ, we see that many entrepreneurs are still not talking openly about their mental well-being. And these challenges aren’t special to our organization. Mental health concerns in tech entrepreneurship are often referred to as “founder’s blues.” Between 2011 and 2017, founder’s blues has contributed to a number of high-profile suicides in the startup world, including Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit.
Researchers from the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs surveyed self-reported mental health concerns. And about 49% disclosed they deal with ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, depression or anxiety. These figures were described as “significantly higher” than non-entrepreneurs.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and colleagues have discovered how two brain regions work together to maintain attention, and how discordance between the regions could lead to attention deficit disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
People with attention deficits have difficulty focusing and often display compulsive behavior. The new study suggests these symptoms could be due to dysfunction in a gene — ErbB4 — that helps different brain regions communicate. The gene is a known risk factor for psychiatric disorders, and is required to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
In a study published in the current issue of Neuron, researchers showed mice lacking ErbB4 activity in specific brain regions performed poorly on timed attention tasks. The mice struggled to pay attention and remember visual cues associated with food. Neuroscientists describe the kind of thought-driven attention required for the tasks as “top-down attention.” Top-down attention is goal-oriented, and related to focus. People who lack efficient top-down attention are at a higher risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study is the first to connect ErbB4 to top-down attention.
A study published in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that five novel genetic variants associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been identified by exploiting genetic overlap between ADHD and educational attainment.
“In this study, we aimed to explore the genetic architectures of ADHD and educational attainment and to what degree they have a shared genetic basis,” says Alexey A. Shadrin, lead author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT). “Our findings may increase the understanding of the genetic risk underlying ADHD and its connection to educational attainment, which has important socioeconomic and health-related life implications,” Dr. Shadrin explains.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases the risk of subsequent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescent and young adult populations by about three times, reports a study published in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).
The authors also found that short- and long-term use of ADHD medication reduced the risk of subsequent STIs among men by 30% and 41%, respectively.
“ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder, and affects approximately 5%-7% of children and adolescents and 2% of young adults,” said lead author Mu-Hong Chen, MD, a physician at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital and the College of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei. “Increasing evidence supports an association between ADHD and various health-risk behaviors, such as risky driving, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors. Clinical psychiatrists [should] focus on the occurrence of risky sexual behaviors and the risk of STIs among patients with ADHD, and emphasize that treatment with ADHD medications may be a protective factor for prevention of STIs.”
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the cause of the disorder. Based on performance on behavioral tests, adolescents with ADHD fit into one of three subgroups, where each group demonstrated distinct impairments in the brain with no common abnormalities between them.
The study, published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, has the potential to radically reframe how researchers think about ADHD. “This study found evidence that clearly supports the idea that ADHD-diagnosed adolescents are not all the same neurobiologically,” said first author Dr. Michael Stevens, of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT, and Yale University. Rather than a single disorder with small variations, the findings suggest that the diagnosis instead encompasses a “constellation” of different types of ADHD in which the brain functions in completely different ways.
Parents of children with ADHD can feel desperate for resources or treatments to help their children who struggle with inattention, distractibility and impulsiveness affecting school and home. Researchers at Lehigh University have discovered that brief online or in-person behavioral therapy for parents is equally effective in improving children’s behavior and parental knowledge — a potential game changer for parents strapped for time and access.
They report these findings in a new paper published in The Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.
Few Use Behavior Therapy, Despite Recommendations
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavior therapy support as the first line of treatment for preschool-age children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), limited availability of clinicians, cost and challenges in transportation and child care — as well as reliance on pharmacological drugs — mean few families access such therapy for themselves and their children. A 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control found that about 75 percent of young children with ADHD received medicine as treatment and only about 50 percent of young children with ADHD with Medicaid and 40 percent with employer-sponsored insurance got psychological services, which may include behavior therapy. ADHD occurs in 2 to 15 percent of young children, with 11 percent of children in the U.S. receiving an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives.
A growing body of evidence supports the claim that access to safe, natural areas improves health across a wide variety of areas, including heart health, mental health, weight management, ADHD, and stress among children. A concept gaining momentum in this realm is green schoolyards. But what is a green schoolyard?
A research abstract, “Green Schoolyards Support Healthy Bodies, Minds and Communities,” that explores the concept of a green schoolyard will be presented Saturday, Sept. 16 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.
“Green schoolyards can include outdoor classrooms, native gardens, storm water capture, traditional play equipment, vegetable gardens, trails, trees and more,” says Stephen Pont, MD, MPH, FAAP, medical director, Dell Children’s Texas Center for the Prevention & Treatment of Childhood Obesity and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UT-Austin Dell Medical School. “And outside of school time, these schoolyards can be open for the surrounding community to use, benefitting everyone.”