Focusing is hard! Brain response to reward in ADHD

Carrot Prize 300x169Scientists decided to have their findings reviewed by both scientists AND students! Which is odd, certainly. But, it’s also very exciting to see students engaged in new ways. The object was to encourage students to get involved with science and to train them to read scientific journals. The study was titled “Focusing is hard! Brain responses to reward in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” The researchers found that when measuring activity in the part of the brain associated with rewards/pleasure, called the striatum, the “students without ADHD to be much more active in anticipation of the reward, potentially helping to focus onto the task at hand knowing reward was likely to follow. Students with ADHD however displayed the opposite pattern: receiving the reward triggered higher activity in the striatum compared to the anticipation of the prize.”

Russell Barkley, PH.D, says in Additude Magazine, “token systems, chip programs, or other external rewards help kids with ADHD persist. Without these rewards, kids with ADHD cannot themselves create the intrinsic willpower they need to stick with the task.”

Play Attention has long utilized a “Reward Bank” system to encourage students to continue their work within the application. The reward is customized for each student and coaches can assign the appropriate number of points to earn a reward, thereby tailoring the distance between “anticipation” and the “prize.”

This feature, as implemented in Play Attention 6, helps you organize the rewards and provides an easy way to adjust when the rewards are given.

Perhaps you have experienced this with your own student, a decrease in focus unless the rewards come readily. If “anticipation of the reward” doesn’t drive “the pleasure center” for ADHD students, how can we, as parents, coaches, or teachers, administer rewards effectively?

Join us on our Facebook page or on Twitter and tell us about how you use Rewards with your student.