Basic and Applied Research Related to ADHD

Environmental Health Perspectives, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Basic and Applied Research Related to ADHD


Through this program announcement (PA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the NIEHS seek to encourage investigator-initiated research to enhance the scientific understanding of underlying mechanisms and risk processes related to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and their implication for the development of effective interventions. Major areas of research interest are 1) basic behavioral and neuroscience research in dimensions of attention, inhibitory control, emotion, and other executive functions relevant to the etiologies, nosology, identification, prevention, and/or treatment of ADHD; 2) basic or applied research on etiologies, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and/or prevention of ADHD; and 3) research on the development of new interventions for use with individuals diagnosed with ADHD and their families.

This PA encourages research involving collaboration between basic scientists and clinical researchers in the study of related dimensions of cognitive and emotional functioning. Communication of clinical findings is critical for identifying new questions to be addressed by basic research and to assist in interpreting findings. It is believed that increased collaboration between basic and clinical scientists will enhance our understanding of the causal mechanisms underlying ADHD and subsequently improve our classification of the disorder and interventions.

Research on the biological, cognitive, and/or genetic processes related to ADHD deficits (e.g., selective and/or sustained attention, inhibitory control, information processing, memory, vigilance, motor control, etc.) and their development among ADHD and non-ADHD children, adolescents, and/or adults is needed to facilitate and clarify ADHD nosology and taxonomy. It is hoped that research in this area will have implications for the understanding of ADHD subtype clusters, heterogeneous presentation across gender and age, comorbid conditions, and functional impairments that co-occur with ADHD. It is also hoped that this research will impact the prevention and/or intervention strategies for this disorder.

Given the heterogeneous nature of ADHD, research on the differential risk factors and nosology of ADHD subtypes and comorbid conditions is very important. There is a need to define risk and protective factors for the identification of ADHD as well as the developmental processes (behavioral, biobehavioral, social, emotional, and cognitive) that lead to the disorder. An understanding of these factors and developmental course of ADHD could then be translated into new prevention, early intervention, and treatment strategies.

Numerous treatments have been designed for individuals diagnosed with ADHD; however, many of these interventions continue to have little impact on long-term functional outcomes. Furthermore, several treatments have been tested within narrowly defined populations, such as boys with a combined type diagnosis. Consequently, the development of interventions that specifically consider treatment impact on age-appropriate functional outcomes (e.g., academic achievement, peer functioning, vocational success) as well as ADHD symptoms is encouraged. Interventions that target females diagnosed with ADHD, preschool children, adolescents, and adults, as well as individuals with co-occurring disorders, are particularly underrepresented. Treatment development includes the conceptualization, development, standardization, and/or testing (pilot testing, field studies, or small scale experiments) of a theory-driven, empirically based intervention approach.

The NIAAA will consider funding alcohol-relevant applications submitted in response to this PA. For example, attention deficits are consistently identified in children with fetal alcohol syndrome or alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder. …

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