People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may face social challenges because of differences in brain connectivity. Research from the National Institutes of Natural Sciences analyzed the blood flow of children with ADHD while the children evaluated facial expressions. The study finds that children with ADHD have impaired recognition of emotional expressions. The research suggests that people with ADHD may have trouble with social functioning for neurological reasons.
The researchers evaluated the emotion recognition skills of 13 children with ADHD and 13 typically developing children. They showed the children images of happy or angry expressions, asking the children to identify the emotions. While the children considered the images, the researchers measured their brain’s blood flow, or hemodynamic response.
To track the children’s hemodynamic response, the researchers used non-invasive near-infrared spectroscopy. Near-infrared light is a form of light that can pass through the human body. By measuring the amount of near-infrared light that is absorbed or scattered when passing through the human skull, researchers can determine how much activity occurs in the brain.
The study suggests that there is a neurological basis for differences in emotion recognition skills between children with ADHD and typically developing children. While the typically developing children had significant hemodynamic responses to both happy and angry expressions, the children with ADHD responded only to the happy expression. Children with ADHD did not exhibit significant brain activity in response to the angry expression.
This neurological difference between children with ADHD and typically developing children could be the basis for social impairment in ADHD. Children with ADHD may need additional interventions to help them interpret facial expressions and to recognize emotions in others.
This research is published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
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