The Neurobiology of ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood.  One of the core underlying impairments in ADHD is in executive control, which manifests behaviorally as symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.  These symptoms can be improved with medication and behavioral interventions in some cases, but not all.  Given the heterogeneity in symptom presentation and treatment response, we need to investigate factors that relate to these individual differences.  Our lab studies how genes related to ADHD and brain function interact with environmental context and aims to elucidate the neurobiological factors contributing to this heterogeneity.

Our lab is perfectly situated to investigate important questions in the field of ADHD given our affiliation with the Center for Children and Families (CCF), which runs an internationally recognized intensive behavioral intervention program for children with behavioral problems, particularly those with ADHD.   In collaboration with others in the Psychology Department at FIU, we are able to study hundreds of children and adolescents with ADHD, putting us in a unique position to conduct cutting edge research in the field.

Broadly speaking, our overall goal is to understand the cognitive neurobiology of ADHD to create more objective measures to aid clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder, and get children on a better developmental trajectory as early as possible.

Mel3Emotion-Cognition Interaction

How do we regulate our emotions? Emotional material can increase our attention. This has evolutionary advantage (we want to notice predators or hostile facial expressions); however, in other circumstances, emotions can get in the way of our goals. Regions of the prefrontal cortex, such as the ventromedial aspect of the PFC, can help us suppress distracting emotional information. We study individual differences in this ability.

For an example, check out our recent finding demonstrating how cognitive control neural circuitry responds to positive and negative emotional context in an opposite way depending on one’s serotonin transporter genotype: PDF.

The Reasoning Brain

We are one of the few labs in the world investigating the neuroscience of deduction.  We test theories of logical reasoning using methods from cognitive neuroscience, such as fMRI, genetics, and pharmacological techniques.  Our focus is on the role of cognitive control in the suppression of reasoning biases.  How can our genes interact with the situation to enable us to make rational decisions?  Are certain individuals at risk for allowing their personal  beliefs to bias their judgement, whether it be in everyday situations or in formal settings such as legal decision-making in a court of law?  Read more: PDF