Our brain is fascinating, and even more fascinating are the neurones inside the brain. Neurones, or nerve cells, are responsible for receiving sensory input from the external world. In other words, you feel cold because neurones in your body ‘feel’ it and send messages to your brain letting you know you should probably put on a jacket.
But neurones can’t work alone…to send these messages to the brain, they need a postperson to carry this message. These are neurotransmitters, one of which is our trusted friend dopamine.
Dopamine is both a hormone, and a neurotransmitter, and its called the “feel-good” hormone because it is released when we do something we enjoy – like eating food we’re craving, or having sex. This important neurochemical boosts mood, motivation, and attention, and helps regulate movement, learning, and emotional responses.
And how does this affect people with ADHD? People with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder happen to have less dopamine than other people. This, therefore, severely impacts their ability to sustain attention and motivation on tasks that aren’t giving them the dopamine they need. Imagine – you’re really hungry, but you are only being given one piece of lettuce at a time, you’re still really hungry and will remain hungry… and let’s face it, you really want to eat a big juicy burger instead to sustain yourself. This is similar to a person with ADHD… they have a lack of dopamine already (which creates a ‘hunger’) and they’re being asked to do tasks that do not increase their dopamine levels (the small pieces of lettuce). The low mood that results from this, and the lack of motivation, will essentially mean that the person will turn to a task that does give that dopamine hit.
It is confirmed through research that medication used to treat ADHD has an impact on dopamine in the brain, particularly in its retention. We’re not sure yet how this translates into more focus at work, or at school, but research is indicating that there’s an impact on the reward cycle which dopamine is a part of.