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IOL Gets Grant to Study ADHD Intervention Treatment

February 16, 2024

Hartford HealthCare’s Clinical Neuroscience & Development Lab has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for a study entitled “Behavioral and Neural Target Engagement for ADHD Executive Working Memory Training.” The lab is part of the HHC’s Institute of Living. Michael Stevens, PhD, director of the lab, is leading the study.

The study will use safe, non-invasive functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to explore whether an online executive working memory training program can effectively alter brain connectivity and clinically improve symptoms of ADHD. The goal is to determine whether this could become a new intervention for ADHD.

The study is now seeking ADHD-diagnosed teenagers to participate. Study participation includes a clinical interview, questionnaires, neuropsychological assessments, and two fMRI brain scans.

For the ADHD group only, participants will undertake a four- to five-week online training program, with about 16 hours of both virtual and in-person visits anticipated.

Dr. Stevens said this new project is actually the second phase of NIH-funded research he has been doing for the last six or so years looking into the effectiveness of a popular non-medication ADHD treatment approach. This treatment protocol involves a new form of cognitive “brain training” to alleviate or mediate issues brought on by ADHD.

In the first study, Dr. Stevens found that this new treatment approach changed how ADHD adolescents’ brain networks engaged when they had to hold information in mind and manipulate it to solve problems and guide choices.

“Our first study gave us a very promising result,” Dr. Stevens said when emphasizing the need for ADHD treatments that do not involve medications. “A lot of people with ADHD don’t like to take medication. Probably only around half who might benefit from medication actually want to take them. Parents have worries about their kids taking medication. There can be side effects that some cannot tolerate. And when it comes right down to it, medications don’t really fix long-term problems associated with ADHD.”

Dr. Stevens’ goal is to find that long term fix by exploring novel treatments designed to change and strengthen brain networks as children and adolescents develop.

“Most ADHD is diagnosed by high school age,” he explained. “The brain is still malleable, adaptable. If you can intervene with something that changes the brain, that potentially might be a long-term treatment.”

The new clinical trial for ADHD-diagnosed teenagers begins this month. For more information, call 860-972-7072 or visit the website.

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