Behavior rewards make ADHD drugs obsolete

Saturday, October 02, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: ADHD, behavior, health news

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(NaturalNews) Rewarding hyperactive children for good behavior and discouraging unwanted behavior works on the same areas of the brain as drugs like Ritalin, according to a study conducted by researchers from Nottingham University and published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

"Although medication and behavior therapy appear to be two very different approaches of treating ADHD, our study suggests that both types of intervention may have much in common in terms of their effect on the brain," said lead researcher Chris Hollis. "Both help normalize similar components of brain function and improve performance."

People are often diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) if they suffer from impulsiveness, poor attention span and fidgeting. Due to their difficulty focusing on a given task for long periods of time, such people may have trouble performing at work or in school.

The treatment of choice for ADHD remains stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, which act on areas of the brain associated with behavior attention.

In the new study, researchers hooked children up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor their brains while they played a specially designed video game that involved catching aliens of a certain color. This game poses special difficulty for children with ADHD, who must resist the urge to impulsively grab aliens of the wrong color. To encourage the right kind of behavior, children received points when they grabbed the right kind of alien, and lost them if they grabbed the wrong kind.

In one group, the rewards and penalties were five times higher than in the other group. The researchers found that this group performed significantly better than the group with the lower rewards and penalties. Furthermore, the EEG showed that the rewards and penalties activated the same areas of the brain as ADHD drugs.

Scientists believe that children with ADHD must be rewarded or punished for their behavior immediately for such a strategy to be effective. In contrast, other children are able to learn from more delayed rewards and punishments.

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