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PERRI KLASS, M.D.

Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 5:17 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 5:17 a.m.

As recently as 2002, an international group of leading neuroscientists found it necessary to publish a statement arguing passionately that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was a real condition.

In the face of “overwhelming” scientific evidence, they complained, A.D.H.D. was regularly portrayed in the media as “myth, fraud or benign condition” — an artifact of too-strict teachers, perhaps, or too much television.

In recent years, it has been rarer to hear serious doubt that the disorder really exists, and the evidence explaining its neurocircuitry and genetics has become more convincing and more complex.

Even so, I’ve lately read a number of articles and essays that use attention (or its lack) as a marker and a metaphor for something larger in society — for the multitasking, the electronic distractions, the sense that the nature of concentration may be changing, that people feel nibbled at, overscheduled, distracted, irritable.

But A.D.H.D. is not a metaphor. It is not the restlessness and rambunctiousness that happen when grade-schoolers are deprived of recess, or the distraction of socially minded teenagers in the smartphone era. Nor is it the reason your colleagues check their e-mail in meetings and even (spare me!) conversations.

“Attention is a really complex cognitive phenomenon that has a lot of pieces in it,” said Dr. David K. Urion of Harvard, who directs the learning disabilities and behavioral neurology program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “What we’re specifically talking about in kids with attention deficit is a problem compared to age- and gender-based peers in selective attention — what do you glom onto and what do you ignore?”

Read in Full:  http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20101214/ZNYT04/12143014/-1/NEWS03?Title=Untangling-the-Myths-About-Attention-Disorder



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