Study by Duke Researcher Proves NeuroPlus Works for Students with ADHD

We’re thrilled to be announcing the results from a pilot study which showed that children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) demonstrated greater focus and decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity after training on the NeuroPlus video games system. The study, which also confirmed the product’s safety, was recently presented at the 6th World Congress on ADHD in Vancouver.

“Parents were asking how we could use our technology to help improve attention and self-control, so NeuroPlus was created with the primary focus to develop a solution that children are comfortable with: video games,” said our CEO Jake Stauch. “We’re excited to see these results, showing NeuroPlus could address the needs of parents hoping to reduce inattention and hyperactivity in their children while also giving anyone, regardless of age, a way to sharpen and improve their focus.”

The study, “Efficacy of a combined neurofeedback, biofeedback and go/no-go training intervention for ADHD: a randomized controlled trial,” was led by Dr. Sandeep Vaishnavi, a neuropsychiatrist at Duke University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Neuropsychiatric Clinic at Carolina Partners in Mental Healthcare. Sixty participants aged 8 to 13 years old with ADHD were enrolled in the study, and subjects were randomly assigned to either 30 minutes of NeuroPlus training 3 times per week or a treatment-as-usual control group that continued their existing treatment regimen. The study lasted 10 weeks, and assessments administered before and after treatment showed improvements in the NeuroPlus group relative to the treatment-as-usual controls.

Statistically significant improvements were observed across multiple outcome measures, including the Conners Global Index (p = 0.010, Cohen’s d = 0.76), Conners Inattention subscale (p = 0.013, Cohen’s d = 0.73), Conners Hyperactivity/Impulsivity subscale (p = 0.040, Cohen’s d = 0.60), and the Quotient ADHD System Global Score (p = 0.005, Cohen’s d = 0.90). No adverse events were reported in the study.

“These results are very promising,” said Dr. Vaishnavi. “There is need to continue this course of study, but this type of training shows promising options for families looking for alternatives to support individuals with ADHD.”

Perquita Peña, a mother of twins with ADHD, has been a NeuroPlus user since January 2017. “I’m so impressed with the drastic changes that I’ve seen with my children’s grades since they started using NeuroPlus,” said Peña. “We don’t use medications because of the side effects, and we’re grateful to have something that really works and is fun for them.”

NeuroPlus was founded by Jake Stauch, who has more than 7 years experience in leading neuro-tech companies. He also previously worked as a researcher at the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Stauch is passionate about using brain-training technologies to help people live their best lives with better focus and attention spans.

“Alongside a healthy lifestyle that includes proper sleep, diet, and exercise, we’re excited that NeuroPlus can make a difference for anyone looking to improve their focus and self-control,” said Stauch.

NeuroPlus is not meant to be a treatment for ADHD, nor is it marketed for those purposes.

Customer Spotlight: Kate

We recently spoke with Christian, a father of 2nd grader Kate, who started training with NeuroPlus at the beginning of the summer.

“This system just made sense,” mentioned Christian, when asked about why he was initially interested in NeuroPlus. “My daughter was already playing a lot of games on the phone and tablet.” In a time where devices rule, it was appealing to Christian to let his daughter play a game and practice the skills that would help her excel. “It’s packaged well and has all the components that you’d need.”

Kate’s been engaged in training, and he’s already started to see changes in Kate’s focus and impulse control. At the end of the last school year, Kate could do about 12 addition or subtraction problems in 1 minute, getting distracted and having difficulty focusing on the task in front of her. Christian set up a program with Kate this summer, training with the NeuroPlus games and keeping her math skills sharp, they’ve already seen dramatic improvements.

“I can say that we’ve seen nearly 100% improvement on this task. I just tested my daughter and she was able to complete 22 problems in 60 seconds,” Christian said.

Kate’s just started the new school year and Christian has high hopes that continued training with NeuroPlus will help Kate permanently stop using the medication to help her focus. “She’s already saying, ‘I don’t need the medicine,’ and I hope we can finally end that soon.”

We asked Christian if he’s tried out the games at all. “Yes, and they’re no joke,” Christian laughs. “The games let you know when you’re distracted and losing focus, but they’re fun. I’m happy we found NeuroPlus.”

We’re excited to follow Kate’s growth in the new school year! If you’re interested in learning how to train your focus while playing a game, you can learn more at our website, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

NeuroPlus at TEDxCharleston

We’re happy to announce that our CEO Jake Stauch has been chosen as a TEDxCharleston speaker at the live event Wednesday, October 18, 2017 from 10:00am – 4:00pm at the Charleston Music Hall.

“I’m excited to share the capabilities of video games to improve attention,” said Stauch. “Some people question the impact of video games on our attention, but the research shows there could be surprising benefits.”

On stage, Jake will be looking into the future to the day when video games could be a solution for ADHD. By discussing research and breakthroughs, attendees will hear about how games can lead the way to improvements now.

Other speakers highlighted at the event can be found here, and if you’re local, you can access tickets online August 22. You can also follow along with the event via NeuroPlus Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as well as TEDxCharleston’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr accounts.

In anticipation of the live event, we wanted to share three previous TED Talks that talk about how gaming is making a positive impact in individuals’ lives.

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world [20:03]
McGonigal studied how games provide people with the experience of achieving an “epic win” and opportunities to stay motivated and overcome failure or frustration. She argues that virtual worlds provide us the platform to practice collaboration, creative problem solving, and social skills.

Daphne Bavelier: Your game on video games [17:57]
Bavelier, a researcher, talks through her research that indicate how video games could be helping practicing skills after playing including focus, multitasking, and vision. She makes the argument that by looking at video games as a tool that can improve our performance when done in moderation, we can see direct improvements over time.

Tom Chatfield: 7 ways games reward the brain [16:28]
It’s easy to be drawn into video games that feels far from the real world – crushing candy, catapulting animals, building cities, etc. The reward systems of these games captivate and motivate us, building upon human nature, to achieve more points and excel in these virtual worlds. Chatfield talks through the elements that make an interesting video game, and we argue that these elements that could very well be manipulated to encourage learning skills in any environment.

Photo courtesy of Edith Howle.

What Your Brain Looks Like on NeuroPlus Video Games

Families that train with and play NeuroPlus games have seen some amazing results. Whether you’re familiar with biofeedback and neurofeedback or they’re totally new concepts to you, we wanted to break down the scientific foundation of our games and how players and families can see improvements in focus, body control, and impulsivity by using the product. We’ll start by explaining how we measure focus by looking at the building blocks of your brain and the way scientists track if someone’s paying attention.

Focus
Neurons, the cells that help you think and feel, communicate by shooting electrical signals to each other in a big network throughout our bodies. When groups of neurons fire together, they leave traces that can be detected as brainwaves through an EEG (electroencephalogram) device. These brainwave signals can be separated into general clusters that doctors and researchers recognize. Right now, there’s not a scientific consensus about why or how these signals work this way. The different types of brainwaves are named after Greek letters, and the ones we use for NeuroPlus games are the beta and theta waves.

Scientists have identified a relationship between beta and theta brainwaves that indicate when someone is paying attention. Higher beta and lower theta is generally associated with more attention. There’s even an assessment called NEBA that doctors sometimes use when diagnosing someone with ADHD. Similar to that assessment, our system looks at a player’s beta and theta waves every 1 second or so, and determines the relationship between these two patterns. When the ratio is high (beta is high, theta is low), the player is rewarded, while a low ratio – indicating less focus – is punished. In the game that might translate to a player going faster when he’s paying attention or slower when he needs to focus more. When he first starts playing the game it might be hard to know exactly what it feels like to pay attention, but it’s something that comes with a little bit of practice.

Body control
It’s often hard to focus when you can’t sit still, and that’s why body control is the second pillar in the NeuroPlus system. The EEG headset that tracks brainwaves when you play NeuroPlus games also has an accelerometer that can tell if a player is moving around too much. When the game detects this kind of movement, the player is penalized in the game environment. They may, for example, lose control of their vehicle or lose points. This kind of feedback within the game leads to recognizable benefits in everyday life. With many people, constant movement and fidgeting are hard habits to break. Practicing with NeuroPlus helps individuals become more aware of their bodies and improves self-control.

Impulse control
The final pillar of our games is getting a player to react to the right stimuli on the screen and to ignore what’s not important through what we call go/no-go tasks. Researchers use this same type of technology in cognitive training therapy, challenging players to decide quickly when to react to something and when to ignore it. In NeuroPlus games, there is a lot happening by design. Go/no-go training is combined with the other pillars to make it more challenging and therefore more effective for the players. Stimuli appear rapidly on the screen and the player has to react as fast as possible, deciding whether to tap it or ignore it based on the game’s instructions. The player will not do well if they’re hyper focused on only one aspect of the game, or if they’re just passively paying attention. The player has to tap the stimulus correctly in order to earn points or avoid costly penalties.

Practice makes perfect
As with anything practice makes perfect. Since the foundation of NeuroPlus games are made from all three pillars—focus, body control, and impulse control—players see improvements not only within the game, but also in other aspects of their lives over time. We’ve seen these results within independent, blinded research and heard about them from individuals that can perform better in meetings or families that say a child is able to focus better on homework and get better grades.

If you’d like to try out NeuroPlus, you can sign up here, or schedule a time to talk to someone from our team about your questions.

To stay current on NeuroPlus news, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Photo courtesy of Jesse Orrico.

Fidget spinners: Helpful or harmful for focus?

Fidget spinners have taken hold recently with everyone from children to adults across the nation as the newest craze to help with focus. These mesmerizing spinning pieces roll around bearings, but can we say they’re helping?

Children love playing with them and some have said that it allows them to focus better. Teachers aren’t so convinced with their ability to help students stay on task, and many schools have started banning them. This hasn’t kept sellers from claiming that fidget spinners are everyday tools, especially for those with ADHD and attention issues. Although it seems little research has been done on the use of fidget devices, we wanted to take a dive to see if we could learn anything from what we do know about fidgeting and executive cognitive functioning.

Mark Rapport, a University of Central Florida clinical psychologist and ADHD researcher, told a Vox reporter he assumed, “[u]sing a spinner-like gadget is more likely to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD,” as it takes away attention from tasks. His research, instead, shows that more full body movement—like cycling or running—engages the areas in the brain that aid focusing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Pilar Trelles, MD, a psychiatrist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, suggested to Health.com that “when someone is hypersensitive to the environment they might bite their nails, pull out their cuticles, or pinch their skin.” While these fidget spinners are a healthier alternative to expel energy, she notes that they are not a therapy and should not replace other recommendations.


Check out this family’s reaction to fidget spinners.

Especially when we consider the spectrum of differences experienced by people with ADHD, autism, and anxiety, we can assume that fidget spinners are likely to have different effects on different individuals. In fact, a pilot study with middle school students suggests that limited intervention of a stress ball might in fact help decrease distractions and increase grades during lessons for those with ADHD while not offering much help, and potentially increasing distractions, for typical students.

It appears that while these popular fidget spinners might be a solution for some people to explore, they might only be a fun (or distracting) toy for others. The best option may be to test out various accommodations and coping mechanism and see what works for your particular situation. Ultimately, if a solution shows promise in the areas we want to improve—such as focus, calmness, and impulse control—there’s no harm in trying it out.

What do you think about fidget spinners? Are they helpful or a nuisance? Let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Visiting the World Congress on ADHD

Last week, the sixth meeting of the World Congress on ADHD descended on Vancouver, Canada. The World Congress on ADHD is a biannual conference that is sponsored by the World Federation of ADHD, attended by clinicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals. Our CEO Jake Stauch traveled north to hear more about the latest in ADHD research and I asked him a few questions about his experience.

Why do you think it was important to be at the World Congress on ADHD for NeuroPlus?
Although NeuroPlus is not a treatment, a lot of our users struggle with ADHD. Much of our team has a background as researchers and we are passionate about science and evidence-based innovations. Assessing and addressing attention issues are a core part of our product. So when there’s a conference about the latest research in ADHD and attention issues, we want to be present both to talk about the research and be a part of the conversations on the best way to move forward.

So, when thinking about that, what is some interesting research you heard about?
New research is starting to shed light on the long term effects of medication. Recent studies suggest that stimulant medication alone is not the best intervention for ADHD and there’s some evidence showing that while being an effective short term treatment option, there are diminishing effects from medication after the first year with some growth suppression in the long term. The best effectiveness is observed when medication is coupled with counseling with a  doctor every four weeks to adjust dosage. These findings have come out of Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (MTA) Study, the largest study on medication used to treat ADHD that follows the efficacy of various ADHD interventions  over long time periods.

How about in the areas of other kinds of treatment?
Neurofeedback, one of the core components of NeuroPlus, is accumulating evidence supporting its efficacy in addressing attention issues.  On the other hand, what’s interesting is the conflicting evidence on simple cognitive training—these brain games that we’re used to seeing in the market. Some studies are showing how they have a positive influence, especially in skills closely related to playing the game, but others are showing that these results may not extend to real-world situations. Researchers are very interested in these alternative interventions and it will be interesting to keep a close watch on the research in this field.

Any other observations you noticed from the presentations and conversations at the conference?
As an industry, researchers, clinicians and professionals continue to pursue an understanding of the differences among those with ADHD. There seems to be a growing consensus that what we call ADHD may be heterogeneous in origin, meaning that two different individuals with ADHD may have different deficits with different underlying causes. Because of that, the ideal treatment may be highly specific for each individual. By focusing on the label of “ADHD,” are we missing an opportunity to instead address the cognitive and behavioral deficits shared by people with a range of attention disorders? In other words, if you struggle with attention, whether or not you have ADHD, maybe a future intervention will provide relief from your most pressing challenges. We’ll have to wait and see what the research says!

Thanks for the insight from your travels, Jake! What do you think about the way we talk about ADHD? Do you think there’s a different way of talking about treatment?

Let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

What is NeuroPlus? An overview

Are you curious about NeuroPlus, but would like to know more?

You’ve come to the right place.

NeuroPlus is a game-based attention training program clinically proven to help individuals, especially those with attention difficulties, exercise their brain in order to develop and improve their focus and self-control.

One of our neurofeedback training games, Conduit
One of our neurofeedback training games, Conduit

How does it work?

NeuroPlus incorporates neurofeedback, motion-based biofeedback, and cognitive attention training to help improve focus, calmness, and self-control.
These methods are embedded in a mobile training games (iOS and Android compatible) that are controlled by a brain-sensing EEG headband.

Neurofeedback
With NeuroPlus, the same neurofeedback strategies typically seen in clinical settings are now available for home use, and at a fraction of the price. NeuroPlus users wear a dry, wireless, easy-to-use EEG headband that measures their brain waves, and play a training game that challenges them to amplify patterns of brain activity associated with focus. The better they’re able to show the right kind of brain activity, the better they perform in the game. Depending on the game, users’ focus will control the speed of a flying dragon, the size of an energy shield, or the brightness of lights in a dark tunnel. What could be more fun than playing a video game with your brain?

Motion biofeedback

Accelerometers and sensors in the headband also monitor the user’s movements and muscle tension, so that the game can give them feedback on their level of calmness. While playing the training game, users must maintain complete control of their bodies and remain absolutely still and relaxed in order to avoid penalties. If they move too much or are too tense, their dragon might falter, or their hover-bike might crash into a wall! Practicing this kind of relaxation can help users maintain calmness and self-control in everyday scenarios.

Cognitive attention training
To further practice and develop self-control, NeuroPlus users are challenged with “go/no-go tasks” requiring them to quickly and accurately respond to stimuli and ignore distractions. Different colored dragons might attack them, for example, and they’ll be instructed to only respond to a given color, ignoring others. Or, they’ll have to scan a cave for treasure and only respond to certain signals. In this way, users practice the act of self-control while also developing working memory and reaction-time skills.

Axon, another NeuroPlus training game
Axon, another NeuroPlus training game

Does it work?
Yes. A registered, randomized, controlled, blinded clinical study showed NeuroPlus to dramatically improve attention while reducing hyperactivity, impulsivity, and learning problems in children. This was after only 10 weeks of training, 3 times per week. Those results will be published in full in the coming months.
In addition to this study, there is overwhelming evidence supporting neurofeedback as an effective tool for improving attention skills in individuals. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics classifies neurofeedback as a Level 1 – Best Support Treatment for ADHD, the same rating given to medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.Dozens of clinical studies have shown the protocols used in NeuroPlus to be effective for improving attention and reducing hyperactivity/impulsivity. Here are two recent from the scientific literature, with more research available on our website.

Duric et al. (2012): Neurofeedback for the treatment of children and adolescents with ADHD: a randomized and controlled clinical trial using parental reports. Neurofeedback improves attention and reduces hyperactivity as well as methylphenidate (Ritalin®). http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-244X/12/107

Steiner et al. (2014): Neurofeedback and Cognitive Attention Training for Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Schools. Neurofeedback produces sustained improvements in attention after only 3 months of training. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/11/peds.2013-2059.abstract

How do I sign up?

Please visit http://www.neuro.plus to sign up and learn more. If you have additional questions, you can email us at info@neuro.plus, or give us a call at (866) 730-6619.

Happy training!

When it comes to ADHD, age is more than just a number

 

You could be increasing your child’s chances of receiving an ADHD diagnosis by pushing them ahead in school.

A recent report by NPR claims that the youngest children in the classroom are at a higher risk of acquiring an ADHD diagnosis. The article cites multiple studies  done abroad which indicate that children who are young for their grade in school are diagnosed with ADHD more often than their older peers. In sum, these studies highlight the importance of considering a child’s age within their grade when diagnosing a child with ADHD or prescribing them medication.

While age within a grade seems to be a predictor of diagnosis, it may not be a compelling predictor of disorder. One factor that complicates matters is that teacher-report serves as a focal diagnosis tool. Teachers, however, can be biased against the youngest kids in the classroom because they constantly compare them to older, more mature students. A study  recently conducted in the U.S. indicates that where a child’s birthdate falls in relation to their school’s kindergarten cut-off date significantly influences their likelihood of diagnosis due to teacher-report, which could be misconstrued: “A child’s birth date relative to the eligibility cutoff also strongly influences teachers’ assessments of whether the child exhibits ADHD symptoms but is only weakly associated with similarly measured parental assessments, suggesting that many diagnoses may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a classroom.” Comparison is intrinsic to a classroom setting, but may play to the detriment of those who are behind in their social development.

Not only does social maturation influence teachers’ perception and subsequent diagnosis rates of younger children, but also biological maturation. That is, a child’s maturity is connected to both their bodies and their minds. Evidence  shows that children diagnosed with ADHD early in their school careers often show a significant symptom reduction as they age, indicating that misdiagnosis often occurs and is correlated with biological immaturity: “This study gives support to the theory that there is a group of children with ADHD-symptoms who have a biological maturational-lag who will show a decrease in their ADHD-symptoms as they show a maturation catch-up with increasing age.” In essence, children exhibiting immature behavior do not necessarily have ADHD, yet there is a strong bias towards diagnosing them.

While these misdiagnoses are understandable and probably somewhat inevitable, they could be dangerous. First and foremost, it may not be advisable to put a child on stimulants if they’re simply young for their class, for fear of purposeless side effects. Moreover, their symptoms may remedy themselves as the child matures. Secondary dangers include social effects. Children diagnosed without cause could experience a type of Golem Effect,  a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby a child transforms into the label they are diagnosed with… This phenomenon has parallels to Malcolm Gladwell’s “relative-age effect,  by which an initial advantage attributable to age gets turned into a more profound advantage over time.” Gladwell discusses this in the context of professional Canadian hockey players, who are far more likely to be born in January, February and March than in other months, due to the junior hockey league’s cut-off of January 1st. Because the oldest kids are more physically mature and seem better, they get extra attention, better coaching, and more practice, factors that compound over time and eventually lead them to become professionals. The same idea could hold true for ADHD diagnosis, but unfortunately, in the opposite direction. Children who are younger seem symptomatic and are labelled as such, limiting their ability in the eyes of teachers, who in turn put less effort into cultivating their abilities.

Gladwell proposes an interesting solution. He suggests that elementary and middle schools put students with January through April birthdays in one class, the May through August birthdays in another, and those with September through December in a third, in order “to level the playing field for those who—through no fault of their own—have been dealt a big disadvantage.” Promising as it sounds, we’re unlikely to see these kinds of systematic changes anytime soon.

More attainable for you, however, is the possibility of training attention skills to compensate for relative immaturity in the classroom. Products like Neuro+  can help improve attention skills in children who are developmentally behind their peers. In this way, children can accelerate the maturation of their attention abilities in a safe and controlled environment, void of negative side-effects.

Regardless of the course you take, if you have a child who is young for their grade and struggling in school, know that attention takes practice and time.

 

 

 

 

Methylphenidate: Effective or Defective?

New research concerning the efficacy of methylphenidate, brand-name Ritalin, revealed disturbing results. Study authors, led by Ole Jakob Storebø, performed a meta-analysis of 185 randomized-controlled trials which included 12,245 participants to determine the effects of methylphenidate in children and adolescents with ADHD.

The main findings reveal that most of the scientific information doctors use to prescribe methylphenidate is very low-quality evidence. What does “low-quality evidence” mean? Essentially, the research reveals that measures such as teacher reported symptoms, general behavior, quality of life, serious and non-serious adverse events, are all at high risk for reporting bias, imprecision, indirectness, heterogeneity, and publication bias. Although methylphenidate may improve concentration, hyperactivity and impulsivity, it is unclear what the magnitude of these benefits are, especially in comparison to the side-effects like sleeping problems and decreased appetite. In sum, it is uncertain whether taking methylphenidate over a long period of time is effective in treating ADHD: “At the moment, the quality of the available evidence means that we cannot say for sure whether taking methylphenidate will improve the lives of children and adolescents with ADHD,” the authors conclude.

What does this mean for somebody with ADHD? If he or she is already on medthylphenidate without adverse effects, it is not advisable to stop use based on these results. Discontinuing treatment may have further adverse effects. You should consult your doctor if you have any questions about this new research.

What about doctors? The researchers urge clinicians to take extreme caution in prescribing methylphenidate, and consider the full scope of the situation before committing to its use.

What next? The authors encourage further research with depersonalized individual data and reliable reporting of all treatment outcomes. More research should also be conducted concerning non-pharmacological strategies for helping individuals living with ADHD.

It is likely that given these results, more analysis concerning the efficacy of ADHD-related drugs will occur. Keep on the look out for reports and new data. This is not the end of the story, more is to come!

ADHD Beyond Borders

This past semester I have been studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. Living here has been a social experiment, immersing myself in a welfare state with progressive values. I have explored all over Europe as well, visiting thirteen countries and many more cities in my short time here. As the semester nears its end, it has come to my attention that ADHD, and many other neurological disorders, are viewed quite differently internationally than they are in the United States. A recent article by the New York Times details varying accounts of parents around the world who have experienced stigmatization and other difficulties surrounding their children’s ADHD diagnosis.

In Argentina, Olga Elizabet Abregu, mother of Santino, 8, testifies: “Here where we live no one knows about A.D.H.D., and the few people who’ve heard of it say they don’t believe in it, that it’s only rude kids without limits.”

In Georgia, stimulants are banned, so unless parents can smuggle the medications like Adderall and Ritalin from nearby Ukraine, children are left with neurologists’ prescriptions for sedatives and other drugs, typically used to treat dementia and psychosis: “They make the children dumb — I really feel sorry for them,” Nino Jakhua, mother of Nikoloz, 6, said.

In Istanbul, Sinan’s parents could not cope with the maltreatment of their son and his ADHD any longer. They moved him to a private school in Utah, paying $10,000 a year for fair treatment.

“In Germany,” one mother, Ms. Oedell, says, “it’s really not accepted to be different. Either people say ADHD. doesn’t exist, or they make it seem like some terrible moral problem.”

In Japan, the only stimulant permitted is methylphenidate, but all stimulants are treated as narcotics.

Studying abroad here in Copenhagen, however, I’ve experienced a different perception of ADHD. Maybe it’s the Scandinavian progressivity or the socialist welfare state, but Danish ADHD is not stigmatized like it is in the rest of Europe. It is however, over-diagnosed and over-medicated, according to my professor in “The Social Brain,” named Lone: “It’s so normal now. I’ve noticed in my practice as a neuropsychologist that parents come up to me and ask for advice all the time. It’s like asking about the weather.” However one of the problems she sees is Denmark’s over-acceptance of the disorder. Education is free and schools are now adopting an “inclusion” policy, whereby all kids, even those with special needs, are to be given appropriate accommodations. “Because ADHD is so common, kids with ADHD are no longer considered special because it’s too prevalent to accommodate so many children…we lose specificity and ADHD is no longer considered a real problem.” In contrast with other European countries, Denmark’s lack of stigmatization of ADHD has almost lead to trivialization.

All over the world, discrimination and misperception of ADHD threaten the well-being of patients and their families. Despite the international attitude towards ADHD, the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years. A recent meta-analysis revealed that the amount of children with ADHD worldwide hovers rather consistently around 5.29%. The authors concluded, “Our findings suggest that geographic location plays a limited role in the reasons for the large variability of ADHD prevalence estimates worldwide.” The recent rise in ADHD diagnoses worldwide is staggering. While in 2007, the international community accounted for 17% of the world’s use of Ritalin, by 2012 that number had doubled. Certain countries in particular have experienced dramatic increases. The number of prescriptions for stimulants in the UK rose by more than 50% in the same time period. Germany’s diagnosis rate rose 381% from 1989 to 2001. The international market for ADHD drugs now tallies at more than $11 billion.

Unfortunately, in most countries, higher incidence of ADHD does not mean that the disorder is becoming more accepted. As diagnoses increase, public perception, education policy, medicine and insurance policy all remain stagnant, inhibiting proper care and treatment. Nessa Childers, co-chair of the European parliament’s mental health, well being, and brain disorders interest group, insists, “We all have to go back to our member states and publicize this situation (for ADHD sufferers)”. She went on to say, “ADHD is one of the most neglected and misunderstood psychiatric conditions in Europe.” The call to action is often drowned out by more pressing political matters. Another option may be to appeal to the academic community. More scientific studies and legitimate research may sway some of the international community’s opinions and highlight the importance of acceptance and proper treatment surrounding ADHD. Given the taboo surrounding stimulant medication in many countries, psychosocial treatment is typically endorsed. Alternative treatments and therapies may find faster and more widespread traction internationally than here in America. Maybe the international community would be interested in NEURO+!