We all know them – kids with ADHD who are bright, energetic, and creative – yet struggle in school. They don’t enjoy learning. They prefer easier work. They give up easily. By all accounts, they lack motivation.
But why? Is it due to a bad attitude? Is it laziness? No, it’s in the wiring!
Looking at the ADHD Brain
Medical technology now permits us (neuro-scientists, that is) to peek inside the brains of folks with ADHD, and what these scientists have learned can help the rest of us understand why kids with ADHD find it so hard to keep motivated in school.
Connections among various parts of the brain form circuits. Within the human brain are two circuits – the reward circuit and the executive circuit – that impact motivational behavior. Brain imaging studies have found that kids with ADHD have differences in one or both of these circuits.
The Reward Circuit
The job of the reward circuit is to help us respond positively to rewards and look forward to the future pleasure of achieving something we value. This helps us maintain the motivation to keep working toward long-term goals, such as getting good grades. In kids with ADHD, though, the reward circuit has an inadequate supply of the brain chemical dopamine. As a result, kids with ADHD have a reduced ability to move beyond the desires and distractions of the moment in order to keep working toward their goals. That is why those text messages will likely hijack today’s algebra homework.
The Executive Circuit
The job of the executive circuit is to help us sort out what we need to do in order to reach the goals we desire. It turns out that portions of this circuit are smaller, less active, and less mature in the brains of kids with ADHD. As a result, kids with ADHD have difficulties with brain-based executive skills (also called executive functions). These skills include sustained attention, planning, and time management. That is why kids with ADHD often meet with frustration and failure when trying to tackle complex tasks, like research papers.
Academic Consequences of ADHD Brain Organization
Due to these brain differences, kids with ADHD tend to lose sight of future goals in the distractions of the moment, and they are often unsure about how to accomplish goals they still wish to pursue. This puts them at a disadvantage in academic settings, especially in high school and college, where goal persistence and strong executive skills are essential.
為甚麼會這樣呢？ 是因為他們態度不好？ 還是過於懶惰？不，一切問題都出在大腦迴路上！