Is ADHD an evolutionary advantage?

ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder among children and teenagers today, and while the name suggests it's not really something you want to be living with, research has shown that ADHD could bring some benefits to young people. So could ADHD be an evolutionary advantage? The latest episode of AsapSCIENCE above investigates.

While studies have linked drinking and smoking during pregnancy to instances of ADHD in children, the biggest factor by far that determines if you're going to be born with ADHD is your genes.

And not just any genes - most of the genes associated with ADHD are connected to the brain's reward pathways, so people with ADHD end up having lower levels of dopamine receptors (aka the 'feel-good' hormone). This means that they find it more difficult to feel satisfied or happy with what they're doing, so while everyone else is content to sit quietly and read a book, a kid with ADHD might get very easily bored.

We see further evidence of how ADHD affects a person's brain when you observe its activity via an fMRI machine. Usually, when the human brain is at rest, you will see activity in the default mode network, and when it's time to switch on again and get stuff done, the activity quickly transfers over to the task-focussed network to achieve better focus.