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According to research, ADHD may have provided an evolutionary benefit.
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According to research, ADHD may have provided an evolutionary benefit.

According to researchers, certain characteristics associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as being easily distracted or impulsive, may have provided an evolutionary benefit to our ancestors. These traits could have helped them strategize more effectively while gathering food.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by symptoms such as impulsive behavior, disorganization, and difficulty concentrating. Although the exact number may vary, there has been an increase in diagnoses of this disorder in several countries, including the United Kingdom.

According to researchers, although some of these characteristics are often seen in a negative light, they may have aided individuals in finding new areas for gathering food.

The study conducted by Dr. David Barack from the University of Pennsylvania, who was the lead researcher, provided a potential reason for the higher occurrence of ADHD compared to what would be expected solely from random genetic mutations. This also sheds light on the prevalence of traits like distractibility and impulsivity.

According to the speaker, if these characteristics were actually detrimental, they would have likely been eliminated through natural selection over time. Our research provides an initial indication that these traits may offer advantages in specific decision-making situations.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Barack and his team shared their analysis of data collected from 457 participants who played an online game that involved gathering as many berries as they could in eight minutes.

The amount of berries collected from each bush decreased as it was foraged more frequently.

During the assignment, individuals had the option to either gather berries from the bushes in their current spot or relocate to a different area – although the latter required an investment of time.

The team screened individuals for symptoms resembling ADHD, but this was not considered a formal diagnosis. They identified 206 participants with positive results.

According to the study, individuals who scored higher on the ADHD scale spent less time in one area of bushes compared to those with lower scores. This suggests they were more likely to leave their current spot and search for a different one. Importantly, the researchers also discovered that these individuals earned more points in the game compared to those with lower scores on the ADHD scale.

The findings of the researchers align with previous studies indicating that populations with nomadic lifestyles, who benefited from exploration, possess genes linked to ADHD.

Despite its limitations, the study acknowledged that ADHD-like symptoms were measured through self-reported information.

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Barack suggested conducting studies with individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD and engaging them in real-life foraging activities. This is especially important as the physical movement between patches would require more effort compared to an online game.

According to Michael J Reiss, a science education professor at University College London, ADHD may have both negative consequences and potential benefits in situations that value physical activity and quick decision-making. Reiss, who was not involved in the study, acknowledges the connection between ADHD and serious consequences.

According to the research conducted by David Barack and his team, individuals with high scores for ADHD tend to exhibit impulsive behavior by frequently changing their foraging methods. This could have been beneficial in our past evolution.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have significant consequences, but these consequences are largely influenced by modern environments.

Source: theguardian.com