Concerns Raised on New Therapies for ADHD

Recess, exercise and more gym are good for kids, but whether they are going to fix ADHD longer term is a very tough question.

Therapies change with time; sometimes for better, other times for the worst. So when schools invest in research programs for developing newer tools and strategies intended for the students with ADHD, high hopes aside, there also remain present chances for pitfalls – some minor and the rest, devastating.

ADHD Prevalence in Schools, United States. Image Courtesy DW Autism Gallery
ADHD Prevalence in Schools, United States. Image Courtesy DW Autism Gallery

When it comes to coping with ADHD, schools are always at the front. This is because more and more of school kids (10% or above; as National Survey of Children’s Health states) are diagnosed with ADHD every year. These kids, mostly in the classroom, face their biggest problems – impulse control and a lack of focus and attention.

Though these kids are often given medication therapies for controlling these symptoms, there are many who do not receive it. This turns the school authorities towards non-medical interventions that are easier to use within the school settings. Thanks to the recent developments in neuroscience; they announced an exciting time in ADHD research and are developing new tools to deal with the problem.

Outcomes of a Recent Studies

Which new research study to believe? That currently is the real question. Some studies say physical exercises bring short-term benefits (find the 10 major studies in the Journal of Attention Disorders, February 2016), while others documented improvements for certain brain functions through regular playing of specially designed video games available in the edutainment market.

However, just a week back, C8 Sciences (a start-up company) announced it’s newly-devised physical exercise and video game therapy. They claimed the combo to bring some promising, short-term results to ADHD children. However, the study still remains unpublished and yet to be certified by experts. But the $5,000 program is being picked by schools at an astounding rate.

Expert Opinions

Jeffrey M. Halperin (ADHD researcher; Professor, Queens College of the City University of New York), well known for helping the development of a few new theories and tools, advises caution to schools before they invest any time or money on such unsolicited products.

Jeffrey believes that this is a simple case of ‘buyer beware’, and personally, he thinks it is a bit premature to market such products due to a lack of substantial evidences. As an example, he cited the Cogmed memory games that claimed an increase in concentration among kids and reduction in the time they usually spend on tasks.

Despite the research literature showing improvements in a child’s working memory, Jeff stays quiet on its effects on ADHD symptoms and therefore, an improved behaviour stays a distant possibility. This is where the real challenge is.

The Next Moves

Two new therapies of entirely different nature now interest Halperin and a large number of researchers in the field. Both focus on the relationship between physical exercise and cognition and the ways to achieve the same through brain-games. Both the therapies are based on the neuro-scientific findings of delayed/inadequate brain development in ADHD-children.

The theory, therefore, runs that these two techniques aid in brain development; just the way lifting weights build muscles. Aerobic exercises are one way to it (found to promote brain development and sustenance in animal and geriatric models); the other way is through playing cognitive games. While C8 Sciences cleverly claims to combine both for bringing the desired results, the proof is still in the pudding.

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