ADHD News & Research

ADHD Research Roundup: New Studies, Findings & Insights

ADHD research continues to reveal new insights about attention deficit — its relationship to trauma, race, emotional dysregulation, rejection sensitive dysphoria, and treatments ranging from medication to video games. For ADHD Awareness month, we’ve curated the most significant news of the past year.

ADHD Research Continues to Reveal New Truths

ADHD research has produced groundbreaking and impactful discoveries since we last celebrated ADHD Awareness Month. Our understanding of the relationship between health care and race has deepened. Alternative treatments, like video games and neurofeedback, are showing encouraging promise while ADHD stimulant medication continues to demonstrate benefits for patients of all ages. The connections between comorbid conditions, gender, and ADHD are better understood than ever before. And we are encouraged by the ongoing work coming from the world’s leading research teams.

Read below to catch up on the most significant news and research of the last year, and stay updated on new findings as they are published by subscribing to ADDitude’s free monthly research digest.

General ADHD Research

Study: Unmedicated ADHD Increases the Risk of Contracting COVID-19
July 23, 2020
The COVID-19 infection rate is nearly 50% higher among individuals with unmedicated ADHD compared to individuals without ADHD, according to a study of 14,022 patients in Israel. The study found that ADHD treatment with stimulant medication significantly reduces the risk of virus exposure among individuals with ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Study: Poverty Increases Risk for ADHD and Learning Disabilities
March 23, 2020
Children from families living below the poverty level, and those whose parents did not pursue education beyond high school, are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities, according to a new U.S. data brief that introduces more questions than it answers.

Faulty Communication Between Regions of the Brain Tied to ADHD
November 19, 2019
A new 20-year-long study has linked attention and hyperactivity to increased “noise” in the signal between sensory and cognitive regions of the brain. The small study of 80 individuals with ADHD suggests new treatment strategies for individuals with attention deficit disorder.

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ADHD and Children

Study: ADHD in Toddlers May Be Predicted by Infant Attentional Behaviors
August 12, 2020
Infants who exhibit behaviors such as “visually examining, acting on, or exploring nonsocial stimuli including objects, body parts, or sensory features” may be more likely to demonstrate symptoms of ADHD as a toddler, according to a new study that also found a correlation between this Nonsocial Sensory Attention and later symptoms of executive dysfunction.

Study Shows Gender Disparities in ADHD Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Poor Response Inhibition
June 26, 2020
Girls with ADHD are less physically hyperactive than are boys with the condition, and experience fewer problems with inhibition and cognitive flexibility, according to a new meta-analysis that says more accurate screening tools are needed to recognize the subtler manifestations of ADHD in girls.

Pediatricians Should Help Recognize and Remediate Educational Problems, AAP Says
November 21, 2019
Rarely do school problems begin or end at the classroom door. Inadequate sleep, learning disabilities, and even food insecurity, among other factors, may help to explain a child’s poor report card. Primary care physicians, according to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are in a unique position to screen for and treat contributing conditions, and also offer support for the secondary challenges — often low self-esteem and social struggles — that follow school failures.

Study: Raising a Child with ADHD Negatively Impacts Caregivers’ Mental Wellbeing
July 27, 2020
Caring for a child with ADHD negatively impacts caregivers’ quality of sleep, relationships, and satisfaction with free time, among other indicators of mental wellbeing, according to a recent study from the United Kingdom. The significant deficit in sleep and leisure satisfaction led researchers to conclude that caregivers may benefit from greater support — for example, coordinated health and social care — that focuses on these areas.

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Study: ADHD, Diet, Exercise, Screen Time All Directly or Indirectly Impact Sleep
July 27, 2020
A child with ADHD is more likely to experience sleep problems, in part because ADHD symptoms influence diet and physical activity — two factors that directly impact sleep. This finding comes from a new study that also shows how screen time impacts exercise, which in turn impacts sleep. Understanding these interwoven lifestyle factors may help caregivers and practitioners better treat children with ADHD.

ADHD and Adolescents

Teens with ADHD Should Be Regularly Screened for Substance Use Disorder: International Consensus Reached
July 17, 2020
Adolescents with ADHD should be regularly screened for comorbid substance use disorder, and vice versa. This was one of 36 statements and recommendations regarding SUD and ADD recently published in the European Research Addiction Journal.

Study: Girls with ADHD Face Increased Risk for Teen Pregnancy
February 12, 2020
Teenagers with ADHD face an increased risk for early pregnancy, according to a new study in Taiwan. However, long-term use of ADHD medications does reduce the risk for teen pregnancies. Researchers suggested that ADHD treatment reduces the risk of any pregnancy and early pregnancy both directly by reducing impulsivity and risky sexual behaviors and indirectly by lowering risk and severity of the associated comorbidities, such as disruptive behavior and substance use disorders.

Study: Teens with ADHD Face Increased Risk for Nicotine Addiction
January 27, 2020
Young people with ADHD find nicotine use more pleasurable and reinforcing after just their first smoking or vaping experience, and this may lead to higher rates of dependence, according to findings from a new study published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Study: Adolescent Health Risks Associated with ADHD Go Unmonitored by Doctors
February 27, 2020
The health risks facing adolescents with ADHD — teen pregnancy, unsafe driving, medication diversion, and more — are well documented. Yet, according to new research, primary care doctors still largely fail to address and monitor these urgent topics during their patients’ transition to young adulthood.

Study: Emotional Dysregulation Associated with Weak, Risky Romantic Relationships Among Teens with ADHD
May 20, 2020
Severe emotional dysregulation increases the chances that an adolescent with ADHD will engage in shallow, short-lived romantic relationships and participate in unprotected sex, according to a new study that suggests negative patterns developed in adolescence may continue to harm the romantic relationships and health of adults with ADHD.

ADHD and Adults

Study: Prevalence of ADHD Among Adults More Than Doubles in a Decade
November 7, 2019
The prevalence of ADHD among adults rose by 123% between 2007 and 2016, according to a 10-year cohort study that also revealed a 26% increase in ADHD prevalence among children, plus persistent racial and ethnic inequalities in diagnosis rates.

New Study: Adult ADHD Diagnosis Criteria Should Include Emotional Symptoms
April 21, 2020
The ADHD diagnosis criteria in the DSM-5 does not currently include emotional symptoms, despite research indicating their importance. Now, a new replication analysis has found that ADHD in adults presents in two subtypes: attentional and emotional. Researchers suggest that this system offers a more clinically relevant approach to diagnosing ADHD in adults than does the DSM-5.

Study: ADHD Diagnosis Improves Quality of Life for Adults with Symptoms
October 3, 2019
Adults with self-reported ADHD symptoms but no previous clinical diagnosis have poorer functioning, self-esteem, and health-related quality of life than do adults with diagnosed ADHD, says a new study that gives credence to the argument for evaluation and diagnosis at any age.

Study: Stimulant ADHD Medication Relatively Safe and Effective for Older Adults
June 30, 2020
Older adults with ADHD largely experience symptom improvement when taking a low dose of stimulant medication, which is well tolerated and does not cause clinically significant cardiovascular changes. This is the finding of a recent study examining the effects of stimulant medication among adults aged 55 to 79 with ADHD, some of whom had a pre-existing cardiovascular risk profile.

Executive Dysfunctions of ADHD Persist Into Adulthood: 25-Year Study
October 31, 2019
Executive functioning deficits continue beyond adolescence and young adulthood for individuals with ADHD, according to a small three-part Norwegian study that followed patients over more than two decades and measured working memory, among other executive functions.

ADHD, Race, and Culture

Study: Race Impacts Ratings of ADHD Behavior in Black Boys
December 11, 2019
A recent study investigated how racial differences might impact how adults rate the behavior of children with signs of ADHD. Researchers found that, after observing anonymous students in video clips, White teachers rated Black boys’ likelihood of having ADHD and the severity of their symptoms higher than did Black parents who watched the same videos.

Study Explores Medication Decision Making for African American Children with ADHD
June 23, 2020
In a synthesis of 14 existing studies, researchers have concluded that African American children with ADHD are significantly less likely than their White counterparts to treat their symptoms with medication for three main reasons: caregiver perspectives on ADHD and ADHD-like behaviors; beliefs regarding the risks and benefits associated with stimulant medications; and the belief that ADHD represents a form of social control.

Culturally Adapted Treatment Improves Understanding of ADHD In Latinx Families
August 31, 2020
Latinx parents are more likely to recognize and understand ADHD after engaging in culturally adapted treatment (CAT) that includes parent management training sessions adapted to be more culturally appropriate and acceptable, plus home visits to practice skills. This recent review of ADHD knowledge among Latinx parents found that CAT outperformed evidence-based treatment (EBT) in terms of parent-reported knowledge of ADHD.

Treating ADHD

Research: Physical Exercise Is the Most Effective Natural Treatment for ADHD — and Severely Underutilized
January 22, 2020
A new meta-analysis shows that physical exercise is the most effective natural treatment for controlling ADHD symptoms such as inhibition, attention, and working memory. At the same time, a comprehensive study reveals that children with ADHD are significantly less likely to engage in daily physical activity than are their neurotypical peers.

A Video Game Prescription for ADHD? FDA Approves First-Ever Game-Based Therapy for Attention
June 18, 2020
Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRx is the first game-based digital therapeutic device approved by the FDA for the treatment of attention function in children with ADHD. The history-making FDA OK followed a limited-time release of the device during the coronavirus pandemic, and several years of testing the device in randomized controlled trials.

Study: Neurofeedback Effectively Treats ADHD
April 9, 2020
Neurofeedback is an effective treatment for ADHD, according to a new quantitative review that used benchmark studies to measure efficacy and effectiveness against stimulant medication and behavior therapy. These findings relate to standard neurofeedback protocols, not “unconventional” ones, for which significant evidence was not found.

Study: Mindfulness-Enhanced Behavioral Parent Training More Beneficial for ADHD Families
June 29, 2020
Behavioral parent training (BPT) enhanced with mindfulness meditation techniques provides additional benefits to parents of children with ADHD, such as improved discipline practices and parental behavioral regulation. This is the finding of a new randomized control trial conducted by researchers who compared mindfulness-enhanced to standard BPT.

Mapping the ADHD Brain: MRI Scans May Unlock Better Treatment and Even Symptom Prevention
March 9, 2020
Brain MRI is a new and experimental tool in the world of ADHD research. Though brain scans cannot yet reliably diagnose ADHD, some scientists are using them to identify environmental and prenatal factors that affect symptoms, and to better understand how stimulant medications trigger symptom control vs. side effects.

New Clinical Guidelines: Holistic Treatment Is Best for Children with ADHD and Comorbidities
February 3, 2020
The Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (SDBP) says that children and teens with ADHD plus comorbidities should receive psychosocial treatment, such as classroom-based management tools, in addition to ADHD medication.

Study: Mindfulness Exercises Effectively Reduce Symptoms in Boys with ADHD and ODD
May 19, 2020
Boys with both ADHD and ODD were less hyperactive and more attentive after attending a multi-week mindfulness training program, according to a new study that finds promise in this treatment as a viable complement or alternative to medication.

ADHD and Comorbid Conditions

Gaming Disorder and ADHD: Brain Scans Show Distinct Similarities
November 25, 2019
ADHD and Internet Gaming Disorder share many common symptoms, including inattention, impulsivity, and low self-esteem, among others. This overlap led researchers in South Korea to study the brain scans of patients with ADHD and/or IGD, and to discover similar brain functional connectivity both before and after treatment.

Study: ADHD Symptoms Associated with More Severe Gambling Disorder and Emotional Dysregulation
January 28, 2020
Roughly one-fifth of individuals diagnosed with gambling disorder in the study also tested positive for ADHD symptoms. This population is more likely to experience severe or acute symptoms of gambling disorder, which is tied to higher emotional dysregulation, according to a new study of 98 Spanish men.

Study: Medication Effectively Treats ADHD Symptoms in Adults with Comorbid Autism
October 31, 2019
Researchers from the Netherlands found that ADHD medication is effective and safe for treating ADHD symptoms in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and comorbid autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ADHD Research: Next Steps

Updated on October 8, 2020

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