Thursday, July 06, 2006

How ADHD Medications Work

Despite the fact that millions of children and adults are on medicine for ADHD, very few know exactly how these medications work in the brain. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are studying ADHD medications on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is associated with making decisions, attention, and a person's personality. Because there's the concern of children becoming addicted to the current medications available, doctors must first find out exactly what these drugs do before different or better drugs are made. And despite these health concerns, doctors are still prescribing the medications because they help better than nothing at all. ADHD drugs are stimulants that increase two neurotransmitters in the brain called dopamine and norepinephrine. It is thought that dopamine plays a role in one's memory and addictive behaviors and norepinephrine plays a role in a person's attentiveness and arousal. Researchers feel that past studies showed little results due to the effects of the medicines that were given in high doses. This can cause dramatic increases in the neurotransmitters, which can make attention even more difficult and can cause a bigger risk of addiction. So the researchers studied the effects of lower doses on rats and found that their dopamine and norepinephrine levels increased in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Their research indicates that any new medicines developed would need to target this area. Studies are being planned for the future to see how ADHD medications act on the nerves that enhance cognitive ability.

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