Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Visualizing Interest: The Striatum, ADHD, and School


Here folks at Emory looked at how brain activation changed when a competing stimulus was deemed more important or salient than the other (novel sounds interrupting a visual classification task). The greater the interest in the novel sound the more the striatum became activated (top panels).

But wait a minute, doesn't that look familiar? Check out the Control vs. ADHD figures from this old PNAS fMRI study (bottom panels). The test subjects in this case were doing a GO-NO GO task. One of the main take-home points of that study was that ADHD subjects had lower levels of striatal activation. Maybe they weren't as interested in the task?

These sorts of studies point out potential pitfalls of fMRI interpretation. Is it motivation or inattention? Keep in mind too, that both top panels represented information from healthy college test subjects. The difference looks were results from different trials in which subjects responded in a graded fashion to the degree of stimulus saliency.

Maybe there is something to this. Another link below is talks about the surprising discovery that 9 out of 10 high school dropouts had passing grades before they left school. If they weren't failing why did they leave? The most common answer was: there wasn't enough interesting work in school (47%).

When asked what they thought might have helped them stay in school, 81% said: "Improve teaching and curricula to make school more relevant and engaging and enhance the connection between school and work."

Striatal Saliency and fMRI
Vaidya ADHD fmri
9 out of 10 dropouts had passing grades - CSM
Silent Epidemic Report - Who Are the High School Dropouts

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