Published: 03rd January 2021
Researchers to add computer simulations to cognitive testing methods to identify ADHD in kids
According to researchers from Ohio State University, for ADHD, however, these cognitive tests often don't capture the complexity of symptoms
In a bid to better identify symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, researchers have vouched for adding computer simulations to cognitive testing methods, to gauge the presence and severity of behavioural problems in kids.
Cognitive testing in ADHD is used to identify a variety of symptoms and deficits, including selective attention, poor working memory, altered time perception, difficulties in maintaining attention and impulsive behaviour.
According to researchers from Ohio State University, for ADHD, however, these cognitive tests often don't capture the complexity of symptoms.
The advent of computational psychiatry - comparing a computer-simulated model of normal brain processes to dysfunctional processes observed in tests - could be an important supplement to the diagnostic process for ADHD, the researchers reported in a new review published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
Children with ADHD take longer to make decisions while performing tasks than children who don't have the disorder, and tests have relied on average response times to explain the difference.
But there are intricacies to that dysfunction that a computational model could help pinpoint, providing information clinicians, parents and teachers could use to make life easier for kids with ADHD.
"We can use models to simulate the decision process and see how decision-making happens over time - and do a better job of figuring out why children with ADHD take longer to make decisions," said Nadja Ging-Jehli, lead author of the review.
The research team reviewed 50 studies of cognitive tests for ADHD and described how three common types of computational models could supplement these tests.
The researchers offer recommendations for testing and clinical practice to achieve three principal goals: better characterising ADHD and any accompanying mental health diagnoses such as anxiety and depression, improving treatment outcomes, and potentially predicting which children will "lose" the ADHD diagnosis as adults.
The review also identified a complicating factor for ADHD research going forward a broader range of externally evident symptoms as well as subtle characteristics that are hard to detect with the most common testing methods.
Understanding that children with ADHD have so many biologically based differences suggests that a single task-based test is not sufficient to make a meaningful ADHD diagnosis, the researchers said.
"ADHD is not only the child who is fidgeting and restless in a chair. It's also the child who is inattentive because of daydreaming. Even though that child is more introverted and doesn't express as many symptoms as a child with hyperactivity, that doesn't mean that child doesn't suffer," Ging-Jehli elaborated.
Daydreaming is especially common in girls, who are not enrolled in ADHD studies nearly as frequently as boys, she said.