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Another Reason Why ADHD Medication May Not Be Getting the Job Done


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It is well understood that a significant amount of children and adults, who suffer from ADHD, continue to have educational/occupational deficits while taking ADHD medication.

ADHD and Neurotransmitter Imbalances

Individuals with ADHD demonstrate inadequacies in executive function (EF), when performing tasks measuring working memory, attentional control, and cognitive flexibility. This may be due to unrecognized neurotransmitter and endocrine imbalances or immune system challenges.

These possibilities make sense, as balanced brain chemicals and a healthy immune system usually results in a happy brain.

But, what if there was another reason? What if the neural circuitry involved in ADHD and working memory, for example, were two peas in different pods?

The Relationship Between ADHD and Working Memory

Dr. Aaron Mattfeld and fellow research scientists at MIT examined the relationship between ADHD and working memory via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and n-back working memory tasks (a task in which a participant executes continual performance to measure the capacity of working memory).

Results demonstrated that there are behavioral and neurobiological differences between working memory and ADHD capacity, and that deficits in working memory were dissociated from ADHD both behaviorally and neurobiologically.

With these findings, it appears that, in order to begin addressing the lack of educational and occupational success in ADHD patients, we may need to work a little harder in developing a remedy to get that working memory to work!


Mattfeld, A. T., Whitfield-Gabrieli, S., Biederman, J., Spencer, T., Brown, A., Fried, R., & Gabrieli, J. D. (2016). Dissociation of working memory impairments and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the brain. NeuroImage: Clinical, 10, 274-282. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2015.12.003

Clinical Contributor

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Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard, MS, NC

Ramona Richard graduated with honors from the University of California with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and graduated summa cum laude with a Master’s Degree in Health and Nutrition Education. She also holds a Standard Designated Teaching Credential from the State of California, is a California state-certified Nutrition Consultant and a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

Ramona has participated in nutrition education in both public and private venues, including high school and college presentations, radio and public speaking for the past 20 years. She is the owner of Radiance, a nutrition consulting company, the Director of Education for Sanesco International, and a medical technical writer.

Disclaimer: The information provided is only intended to be general educational information to the public. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any medical matter or if you are suffering from any medical condition, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.

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