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Attention Deficit Disorders

Julich researchers have joined forces with physicians and scientists at the university hospitals in Cologne and Aachen in order to help stroke patients or young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). To this end, they are using state-of-the-art imaging techniques to investigate the causes of the disorders and develop innovative treatment methods.

Helping Stroke Patients

The researchers have discovered that paralysis or attention deficit disorders in stroke patients are often caused by disturbances in the interaction between the two hemispheres of the brain. Stroke patients frequently experience hyperactivity of the non-damaged hemisphere which impairs the ability of the hemisphere affected by stroke to recover function on a long-term basis. As a result, the healthy hemisphere inhibits the activity of the damaged side. The researchers employ two non-invasive and painless treatment methods using magnetic or electrical fields to specifically restore the balance of the two hemispheres. This significantly alleviates paralysis and substantially reduces attention deficits. At the same time, the scientists are working to use drugs to specifically promote healing processes.

Special Features of the Young Brain

In children and adolescents, the brain is not only smaller than in adults, it is also organized differently and constantly changes during the course of development. This means that scientists need more precise and more contrast-rich images in order to observe these changes in young patients. Thus, for example, it is instructive to investigate what happens during puberty in certain lower-lying regions of the brain that process reward stimuli. Recent results suggest that these regions mature earlier than regions such as the parts of the brain responsible for decisions and control functions. For this reason, the brain of a young person frequently assesses risk situations differently than that of an adult. In children and young people with ADHD, the researchers have also observed that rewards are processed in the brain differently than in healthy children and young people and, in particular, the interaction of different regions of the brain is changed during the processing of reward stimuli. This could explain why the control of impulses and emotional affects in patients with ADHD are frequently impaired.