Many people opt to play crossword puzzles, learn a new language or take up a different hobby, not only because it’s enjoyable, but because they believe that doing so can help deliver brain-boosting benefits. Even a quick internet search with the words “brain power” shows that there’s an interest in this topic, with headlines running the gamut from techniques to improve memory to tips to sharpen focus.
But can people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – often referred to as a brain-based disorder – also train their brain to improve?
Every Brain, Not Just the ADHD Brain
Of course, says Edward Hallowell, founder of the Hallowell Centers, which help treat people with ADHD and other cognitive and emotional conditions in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. He makes it clear that the question actually shouldn’t be so much about the ADHD brain specifically, noting that “every brain can be improved.” He explains that the interventions that help people with ADHD are the same that can help everyone.
More Activity, Less Recreational Screen Time
According to Temple Grandin, author of “Thinking in Pictures” and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, who has interacted with people with various disorders including ADHD and autism (she has autism herself), the ways to expose people to new activities and situations need not be complex, costly or time-consuming.
Her solution is easy: Explore the outdoors more, get involved with hands-on activities and limit recreational screen time to one hour per day.
The ‘Other’ Vitamin C, Developing a Growth Mindset
For Hallowell, a great deal of keeping brains in shape involves getting a regular dose of what he calls “the other vitamin C” which stands for “connection.” However, he’s not talking about connection in terms of gossip or interacting in ways that can be detrimental, but instead says that “the power of connection” – love, when it’s most distilled – can be a helpful intervention. He explains that this doesn’t have to involve another human; connection can be with a dog or appreciation for a sunset or a kind of music. Connecting with things that foster positive engagement, he says, is good for the mind.
For people interested in other methods, Dr. L. Eugene Arnold, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Nisonger Center at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and author of the book “A Family’s Guide to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” says that delving into neurofeedback is important.
In fact, Arnold is currently involved in a neurofeedback study, which he says is still accepting ADHD children ages 7 to 10 (more details reside at icanstudy.org). The children can be the inattentive type (an inability to pay attention) and combined type (an inability to pay attention and feeling the need to constantly move).
Kevin S. McGrew, a visiting professor in the educational psychology department at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and the director of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics, explains that an interactive metronome method may help people improve their brain focus specifically.
Other options worth exploring, according to an ADDitudeMag.com article, “Boost Your Brain Waves: 6 Brain Training Therapies for ADHD” include – but aren’t limited to – Cogmed, a web-based program designed to help improve working memory, and meditation, which may foster greater in-the-moment awareness that can ease the anxiety people with ADHD often experience.