What is ADHD | UC Davis MIND Institute

What is ADHD?

ADHD is the most common childhood psychiatric disorder, affecting behavior and daily functioning in 5 to 7 percent of school-aged children in the United States.

  • Symptoms. Children may act quickly without thinking and interrupt others (impulsivity), fidget, have difficulty sitting still and staying on-task hyperactivity), or daydream and get easily sidetracked (inattention).
  • Three types. ADHD is diagnosed as the hyperactive impulsive type (no significant inattention), inattentive type (no significant hyperactive impulsive behavior) or the combined type (both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).
  • Other disorders. Children with ADHD can suffer from other psychological disorders,including depression, learning disorders, impulse control disorders and autism spectrum disorders. Adults may suffer from substance abuse.
  • Life-long management. ADHD is a chronic illness requiring long-term treatment strategies.

Exploring new treatment options

Treatment usually includes:

Behavioral therapy:  Traditional approaches to parent behavior therapy and classroom management rely on consistently rewarding desirable behavior and removing rewards for inappropriate behavior.

Medication:  Stimulants have long been used to treat ADHD. However, 20 percent of children receive no benefit from these drugs or suffer side effects that limit their use. Nonstimulant medications may also be helpful.

Novel treatment: New treatments are being tested routinely at the MIND Institute and other centers. We will post more information soon on nonpharmacological treatments.

Raising awareness, establishing community

From recognizing symptoms to evaluating treatment options, raising awareness about ADHD and related disorders is the key to early diagnosis and effective treatment. The AIR Program strives to serve as an information and training resource for the community. By participating and contributing to research you can help the MIND Institute find new ways to prevent, better understand and treat ADHD symptoms.

Revealing the inner workings of the brain

MIND researchers are using neuroimaging studies to better characterize abnormalities of brain function and circuitry associated with ADHD. We use functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in combination with measures of academic performance and clinical measures (e.g., rating scales) to assess how the brains of persons with ADHD may differ from their peers. Some of our findings have revealed:

  • Brains of people with ADHD may activate compensatory brain regions that are less efficient than their peers on some cognitive tasks
  • Sluggish cognitive tempo symptoms produce different brain imaging patterns than inattentive symptoms of ADHD
  • ADHD is associated with more variable responses and the variability is linked to reduced functioning in the brain’s “default mode network”
  • Adolescent impatience decreases with increased brain fronto-striatal connectivity
  • Behavior and ADHD

Giving Opportunity

The clinical and research activities of the AIR Program are funded through philanthropic, local and government grants. Your support will help us reach our goals faster. To donate, please go to the UC Davis Health's Online Donation Form and designate “ADHD – UC Davis MIND Institute” in the “special instructions for this gift”.

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