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Symptoms Of ADHD: Why Your Brain Lacks Motivation

By Erin Matlock

Patients suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, participated in a pioneering study led by Nora Volkow, the Director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and collaborator at Brookhaven National Laboratory. For the first time, evidence showed lower levels of dopamine in the areas of the brain involved with motivation and reward.

97 total participants were broken into two groups – 44 adults showing no signs or symptoms of ADHD and 53 patients who were diagnosed with the disorder but who had not previously received treatment. Positron emission tomography, or PET scans were used to measure the levels of two unique dopamine system markers – transporters and receptors.

Dopamine transporters are involved in the recycling and uptake of excess after the reward signal is sent, while dopamine receptors are crucial in the propagation of the reward signal.

While lying in a PET scanner, participants were injected with radiotracer, a radioactive compound designed to bind to a specific target. Multiple radiotracers were employed to account for the range of targets that were measured. The researchers used the data to determine the location and concentration of the dopamine receptors and transporters.

The findings indicated that patients with ADHD have smaller amounts of dopamine transporters and receptors in two regions of the brain – the midbrain and accumbens – two areas that are responsible for motivation and reward processes. Scientists also found that the markers showed high correlation with symptoms of adult ADHD, such as inability to focus and inattention.

The research showed, according to Volkow, that lower amounts of dopamine transporters and receptors play specific roles in the patients’ decreased attention and may underlie ADHD sufferers’ reactions to reward. She also added that results from the study supported the use of stimulants which increases dopamine levels in the brain thus, increasing the attention level of ADHD patients to mental tasks presented to them.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Matlock, Erin "Symptoms Of ADHD: Why Your Brain Lacks Motivation." Symptoms Of ADHD: Why Your Brain Lacks Motivation. 24 Jun. 2010. 3 May 2015 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Matlock, E (2010, June 24). Symptoms Of ADHD: Why Your Brain Lacks Motivation. Retrieved May 3, 2015, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Matlock, Erin "Symptoms Of ADHD: Why Your Brain Lacks Motivation"

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