Cause of impulsive choices by kids with ADHD identified in new research

Credit:  Microsoft
Many people with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) make impulsive decisions that are not best for them in the long-term. Now researchers have discovered the exact process responsible for these decisions as well as the point in this process when these decisions are made. Researchers think these discoveries may lead to better treatments for people with ADHD.

People with ADHD often make decisions based on the immediate reward they receive instead of considering any long-term consequences. For example, a person may decide to spend an hour playing a video game instead of practicing for her driving test. In this situation, the person is immediately rewarded because she gets to play her video game. She hasn't considered the long-term value of using the hour for practice that may help her pass her driving test. 

In this study from the University of Zürich, researchers analyszed the decision-making process of 40 adolescents - 20 of whom had ADHD. The study participants played a game "where they had to learn which of two images carried more frequent rewards."  During the game functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) were used to monitor the participants' brain activity.  

ADHD and Problems with Reward Prediction Errors

Researchers discovered that "impaired decision-making and learning mechanisms" in the participants with ADHD was caused by flawed processing of reward prediction errors (RPEs) in the brain, specifically in the medial prefrontal cortex
Credit: US Govt Photo

Reward prediction refers to activity of brain cells called neurons.  A reward prediction error occurs when your brain expects you to get a reward, but you do not receive one.  If your brain is not expecting a reward and you receive one this is also a RPE.  For example, if your brain is expecting a piece of cake after a meal and you don't get the cake this is a reward prediction error.

Implications of Study Results

"We were able to demonstrate that young people with ADHD do not inherently have difficulties in learning new information; instead, they evidently use less differentiated learning patterns, which is presumably why sub-optimal decisions are often made", says the first author Tobias Hauser. “If our findings are confirmed, they will provide key clues as to how we might be able to design therapeutic interventions in future.” 

The study, "Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Impaired Decision Making in Juvenile Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder," is published in JAMA Psychiatry.


ADHD children make poor decisions due to less differentiated learning processes (University of Zurich)

ADHD children make poor decisions due to less differentiated learning processes (Medical Express)

Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Impaired Decision Making in Juvenile Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Ireland International Conference on Education

The Ireland International Conference on Education (IICE) is biannual conference which takes place in April and October. The October IICE-2014 will be held from the 27th to 29th of October, 2014 in Dublin. The IICE is an international refereed conference dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practices in education. The IICE promotes collaborative excellence between academicians and professionals from Education.

The aim of IICE is to provide an opportunity for academicians and professionals from various educational fields with cross-disciplinary interests to bridge the knowledge gap, promote research esteem and the evolution of pedagogy. The IICE-2014 invites research papers that encompass conceptual analysis, design implementation and performance evaluation.

For more information click here.

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting, organized by the European Academy 
of Allergy and Clinical Immunology will take place from 9th October to the 11th October 2014
at the The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) in Dublin, Ireland. The conference will cover
areas like The final plenary weaves these themes together addressing how we hope to help
patients move from merely controlling their food allergy - which is difficult for them - to a cure
- which is proving difficult for us.

Click here for more information.

Youth Work Ireland National Outcomes Symposium

Date: Wednesday 17th September 2014
Venue: National Office of Youth Work Ireland, 20 Lower Dominick Street, Dublin 1
Cost: €10 – this includes tea, coffee and a light lunch

Symposium on the Five National Outcomes
This symposium anticipates the forthcoming National Youth Strategy and provides practitioners with a space to learn about and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that youth work has in contributing to the five national outcomes for children and young people under the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Policy Framework. Contributors on the day will provide their learning about the challenges and opportunities in addressing each of the five outcomes. 
An input from a representative of the DCYA will also assist attendees to bring themselves up to date with the National Youth Strategy development process. This will be followed by facilitated group discussions and a questions and answers session that will further assist practitioners in considering and developing an understanding of the implications of the outcomes and the associated Youth Strategy for their work.Outl
Outline of the Day
10.30 – 11.00 Registration Tea & Coffee

11.00 – 11.15 Introduction

Introduction and Overview of the Better Outcomes, Brighter Future: A National Policy Framework for Children and Young People: 2014 - 2020   
11.15 – 12.30 Brief Presentations
  • National Outcome 1: Active and Healthy:  Áilish O’Neill, NYCI
  • National Outcome 2: Achieving in all areas of learning and development:Anna Gunning, Youth Advocate Programmes Ireland
  • National Outcome 3: Safe and Protected from Harm: John Cahill, Foróige
  • National Outcome 4: Economic Security and Opportunity: John Lonergan, Former Governor for Mountjoy Prison
  • National Outcome 5: Connected, Respected and Contributing: David Carroll, BeLonG To                   
12.30 – 1.30 Lunch and informal discussions    

1.30 – 2.00 Afternoon Session
  • Transformative Goals: Realising Integrated Youth Services: Mairéad Cluskey, President of Youth Work Ireland
  • Update on the National Youth Strategy: Department of Children and Youth Affairs 
2.00 – 3.00 Group Sessions
Group discussion session facilitated by presenters

3.00 – 3.30 Feedback and Q & A

Feedback and Question and Answer session Anne Connolly, Chair of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee

Price: €10.00

For more information go to the Youth Work Ireland website.

National Council for Special Education Conference (NCSE) 2014

NCSE Annual Research Conference 2014
9am – 4pm Wednesday 19th November
Hogan Mezzanine Suite, Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin 
This year’s conference will include inputs on autism provision and interventions, educational outcomes among Irish children with special educational needs and findings from longitudinal research in Ireland. The event will feature international and national guest speakers, presentations on NCSE commissioned research and responses from key stakeholders.
Please put this important date in your diary and feel free to pass this notice on to others who may be interested 
Invitations, booking forms and agendas will issue in October
Check the NCSE's website for more information.

Antidepressant use during pregnancy does not increase the risk of autism but does increase the risk of ADHD

Women who use antidepressants during pregnancy do not increase their risk
Credit:  Greyerbaby on Pixabay
of having a child with autism, according to a study published 26 August 2014. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) studied data on over 6,000 children and their mothers.  They concluded that although the risk of autism was higher among women who took antidepressants during pregnancy, the increased risk was due to the mothers' underlying disease of depression.

The results of the MGH study are consistent with a Danish study published in 2013.  Danish researchers found no significant link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and an increased risk of having a child with autism. Danish investigators acknowledged there was an "association" between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism, but attributed this to the mother's mental health disorder and not the medication. 

"We know that untreated depression can pose serious health risks to both a mother and child, so it's important that women being treated with antidepressants who become pregnant, or who are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that these medications will not increase their child's risk of autism," says Roy Perlis, MD, MSc, senior author of the MGH study. "There are a range of options – medication and non-medication – for treating depression and anxiety in pregnancy," says Perlis. "But if antidepressants are needed, I hope parents can feel reassured about their safety."
Credit:  Greyerbaby on Pixabay

As part of this study, researchers investigated a possible link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They reviewed data on nearly 8,000 children and their mothers.  Researchers determined that the risk of having a child with ADHD was increased significantly when the mother took antidepressants during pregnancy.

More information about pregnancy and antidepressant usage is available from the Office on Women's Health and the Mayo Clinic.

A version of this article was originally published by me on