Science on Tap is an event put on by the Center for Communicating Science during which Steven Reiner, a journalism professor, sits down with a scientist to discuss science over a few beers.
The event featured its host Steven Reiner, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Journalism, and Mary Kritzer, a professor of neurobiology and behavioral science. Kritzer discussed the neurological connection between the disorder and the brain, and ended by answering questions from the audience.
Upon recollection of this first Science on Tap, Kritzer remarked that it required her to “think on her feet. We had great questions from people. Some, I’d never thought of before. I really got a lot from the audience.”
ADHD is a neurological disorder that is normally diagnosed during a person’s childhood. Children with it are said to have trouble socializing with others and display an inability to focus on a single task. People with the disorder are prone to aggressive behavior and more likely to engage in risky activities, including drug use. Kritzer said is “primarily an issue for the young, especially teens,” and may cause memory impairment.
“That frightens me,” said Reiner.
During the discussion, Reiner commented that research shows that there has been an increase in diagnoses in children by 25 percent over the last few years. Kritzer said the reason for this increase remains unclear, but may be related to more awareness and treatment of the subject.
Although ADHD is not her area of expertise, Kritzer is a researcher who specializes in the pre-frontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists believe may be where the source of the disorder occurs. As to what that source is, scientists are still not sure, but speculate that it may relate to an irregularity in levels of dopamine, neurotransmitters that transfer information between cells, which allow for a person to carry out tasks.
Scientists believe that in people with ADHD, dopamine levels move up and down at an irregular rate, causing a person to become confused or lose focus on the task at hand. According to Kritzer, studies have shown that testosterone allows the nervous system to regulate dopamine levels so that information is transmitted correctly. She declined to list any medications, as she is not certified to prescribe them to people.
She also said that research shows males are four times more likely than females to be diagnosed with the disorder. “I think that the way that their brains are set up to regulate dopamine leaves them more vulnerable to the disadvantage where dopamine imbalance can occur,” she said.
Kritzer said she feels ADHD is a known disorder, but the public still doesn’t understand it.
“I think people are aware of it. So, it’s not really awareness, but acceptance that it’s a malignancy or disorder that can be treated, or should be like any other organ of the body.”