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Mind Hacks and the Placebo Effect

Placebo effect, mind hacksIn the ETech pan­el a few days ago, we dis­cussed some futur­is­tic and some emerg­ing ways in which we can “hack our minds”, most­ly from a tech­nol­o­gy point of view.

Nei­ther myself nor the oth­er pan­elists thought of sug­gest­ing the most obvi­ous and inex­pen­sive method, proven in thou­sands of research stud­ies.

The secret com­pound?: Belief. Also called “the place­bo effect”. Let’s see what Wikipedia says:

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Attention deficits: drugs, therapy, cognitive training

Shel­ley launched a good dis­cus­sion on The Neu­ro­science of ADHD in her blog, dis­cussing the sit­u­a­tion and pro­vid­ing a tech­ni­cal overview of drug-based inter­ven­tions. Some­thing I hadn’t heard is that “For exam­ple, babies born pre­ma­ture­ly face a sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater risk of devel­op­ing ADHD than full-term babies (socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus was con­trolled for).”

Which helps me bet­ter under­stand the need to think about pre-school­ers, as dis­cussed in the arti­cle Diag­nos­ing ADD/ ADHD in Preschool­ers, at ADDi­tude Mag­a­zine. I quote:

  • The Preschool ADHD Treat­ment Study, or PATS, con­duct­ed by the Nation­al Insti­tute of Men­tal Health (NIMH), is the first long-term study designed to eval­u­ate the effec­tive­ness of treat­ing preschool­ers with ADHD with behav­ioral ther­a­py, and then, in some cas­es, methylphenidate. In the first stage, the chil­dren (303 preschool­ers with severe ADHD, between the ages of three and five) and their par­ents par­tic­i­pat­ed in a 10-week behav­ioral ther­a­py course. For one third of the chil­dren, ADHD symp­toms improved so dra­mat­i­cal­ly with behav­ior ther­a­py alone that they did not progress to the ADHD med­ica­tion phase of the study.”

As Shelley’s post and the arti­cle explain, drugs do help when used appro­pri­ate­ly. Now, they are not the only answer. I am hap­py to see that behav­ioral ther­a­py can be as use­ful when appro­pri­ate. Which is not a sur­prise, giv­en the grow­ing lit­er­a­ture on dif­fer­ent meth­ods of cog­ni­tive train­ing, includ­ing ther­a­py and work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing like the one dis­cussed with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gib­son and in our post Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science and ADD/ADHD Today.

Potential Nutritional Treatment for ADD/ADHD

Dr. David Rabiner’s Atten­tion Research Update drew my atten­tion to some recent research arti­cles on the poten­tial of fat­ty acid dietary sup­ple­men­ta­tion to help treat ADD/ADHD.

Stim­u­lant med­ica­tion for chil­dren with ADD/ADHD has been the pre­dom­i­nant treat­ment for years. Thus far, it has been quite suc­cess­ful, but we have yet to see the long term effects of chron­ic med­ica­tion. Giv­en that, it is worth at least inves­ti­gat­ing alter­na­tive ther­a­pies that can be used either in place of or in con­junc­tion with tra­di­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and behav­ioral treat­ment.

As one of the four pil­lars of brain health, nutri­tion has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on both phys­i­cal struc­tures in the body and behav­ior. Stud­ies sug­gest chil­dren with ADHD have low­er lev­els of both omega-3 and omega-6 essen­tial fat­ty acids.
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