Researchers believe that emotional disturbances in children with ADHD are impacted by brain activity during sleep. In healthy children, sleep consolidates emotional memories; for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), this is not the case. According to research published May 29 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Alexander Prehn-Kristensen and colleagues from University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, decreased emotional processing during sleep can heighten emotional disruptions experienced in the daytime by children with ADHD.
The study group sampled healthy adults, healthy children and children with ADHD. During the study, each participant was shown pictures with emotional relevance, such as a scary animal, or neutral pictures showing objects like an umbrella or a lamp. These pictures were shown in the evening and then researchers monitored participants’ brain activity throughout the night. In the morning, participants’ ability to recall the items was tested. Results indicated that the areas of the brain thought to support consolidation of emotional memories was most active in healthy children, then healthy adults and least active in children with ADHD.
The study states, “While several studies reported a benefit from sleep with respect to emotional memory in healthy individuals, our results showed for the first time that healthy children outperform healthy adults.” However, the authors add that this may be, in part, attributable to the child-oriented pictures used as stimuli.
Their results support the idea that frontal brain activity is critically to the consolidation of emotional memory in sleep, and this brain region is also implicated in the emotional symptoms seen in children suffering from ADHD. The authors add that further studies are needed to confirm whether this function of sleep in forming emotional memories develops with time in adults with ADHD, or whether the dysfunction persists in ADHD sufferers of all ages.
CONTINUE READING Brain Activity in Sleep May Impact Emotional Disturbances in Children With ADHD or read the study Sleep Promotes Consolidation of Emotional Memory in Healthy Children but Not in Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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