ADHD

Updated 17 July 2017

Is ADHD a disease or not?

Many people argue that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is just normal restlessness. We ask an expert to give her view.

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ADHD is a hereditary disorder. The field of medical genetics examines the clustering of disorders in families. Identical twins share 100% of their genes.

If one twin has ADHD, the other has a 90% chance of having ADHD. Non-identical twins and other siblings who share less common genetic material, have a 30-40% chance of having ADHD. Compare this with the 7% risk of the general population.

Sophisticated technology has led to the expansion of the field of molecular genetics, which allows us to search for the susceptible areas on specific genes.

At present there is strong evidence implicating receptor sites for the chemical messenger dopamine on chromosomes 11 and 5.

Advances in the field of brain imaging allow us to track brain functioning in different areas of the brain.

Individuals with ADHD show decreased functioning in the frontal lobes with overloading in the areas that collect auditory and visual inputs compared to those individuals without the disorder.

These effects are reversed with the use of stimulant medication. The brain imaging studies correlate with research into the neuropsychology of the disorder, which demonstrates frontal lobe and other deficits.

The frontal lobe, connections to the basal ganglia and the cerebellum are the structures implicated in the disorder.

Research identifies the balance between the chemical messengers noradrenaline and dopamine as the culprits and all effective medications target these areas.


 

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Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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