While people often find kids suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rowdy and indisciplined, a new study suggests that such children are actually trying to cope with a faulty perception of time.
Katya Rubia, who led the research team from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, pointed out that ADHD is characterised by a shortage of dopamine, which is known to affect time perception.
She said that the purpose of her team's study was to determine whether this could be the source of ADHD-suffering kids' problems.
She revealed that her team used MRI scans to show that 12 boys with ADHD had less activity than usual in the frontal lobe, the basal ganglia and the cerebellum, all areas of the brain known to be crucial for time perception.
The researcher further revealed that those boys were also worse than 12 other boys at estimating how long circles appeared on a screen before vanishing.
Rubia said that the team later gave the children the drug methylphenidate, aka Ritalin, which boosts dopamine levels and is used to treat ADHD.
She said that the treatment turned brain activity in the ADHD group indistinguishable from that of the healthy boys.
"Ritalin enhances brain regions that are important for time perception in ADHD children," New Scientist magazine quoted Rubia as concluding.
Writing about the study in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Rubia says that this is evidence that faulty time perception causes the major symptoms of ADHD, by making children perceive even short periods of inactivity as inordinately long and boring.