Using brain scans to track the brain activity of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide have shed light on why such kids have trouble remembering, and why they do not recognise distractions as a distraction.
The researchers tracked the brain activity of 150 children and teenagers with ADHD to build a neuro-cognitive profile of their behaviour.
For the purpose of testing how well sufferers off their medication were able to remember numbers in the short term as part of their "working memory", the researchers used the card game Snap.
"In Snap, you have to recognise that the same two cards have appeared in a row, but we found that children diagnosed with ADHD had incredible difficulty detecting doubles at all," news.com.au quoted lead researcher, PhD student Hannah Keage, as saying.
"They just weren't able to select that information about the cards properly and hold it online in their head," she added.
Tests of brain activity revealed that the brains of children with the condition recruited less neurone than was necessary for such operations.
"Clearly, they're distracted because they're not getting the right information in the brain," said Keage.
While presenting the finding at the World Congress of Neuroscience in Melbourne, she also spoke about the tests she conducted to check the ability of ADHD kids to cope with distractions.
The patients were asked to play with the same computer card game, while distracting images also flashed up on screen. They did not recognise distractions as a deviation from the task, or as a distraction at all, and displayed the same "weak" brain activity.
"That means they essentially have difficulty recognising new usual things as new, which makes learning new things very difficult," Keage said.
When the children repeated the tests after resuming their stimulant medication, they showed vastly improved uptake of both tasks, proving the drugs many children take for the condition worked.
The researchers are of the opinion that a better understanding of the behavioural deficits in children with ADHD may be helpful in the development of new therapies that directly target these problem areas.
"There's scope there now to try to train these children to recognise new information or remember things differently to help overcome these learning disabilities," Keage said.