Featured News Article

The ADHD machine

There is a device out there dubbed Quotient, sold by an outfit called BioBehavioral Diagnostics, which claims to accurately and objectively measure Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). (Picture form BioBehavioral Diagnostics.)

As an ADHD person myself I was, at first, intrigued.

The chief medical officer for BioBehavioral is Calvin Sumner, a former project medical leader for Eli Lilly.

The inventor is Dr. Martin Teicher of Harvard’s McLean Hospital, and it measures the subtle shifts your head makes when your attention is drawn toward a task or away from it, along with body movements indicating frustration.

Last year Teicher won a $1 million grant to continue working on ADHD biomarkers, although his own blog indicates his academic interests have shifted toward depression and childhood abuse. His team will look at MRIs and a device called the ActiGraph.

A New York Times article on all this from Katherine Ellison, also an ADHD person, raises as many questions as it answers.

This is a PC, sensors and software, so how do you get a list price of $19,500? Each use costs $55 to the maker, and insurers are charged $200 for each test? Can you say ka-ching? ADHD is a mass market condition. How does a $200 test address a mass market condition? Especially when, as its maker admits, it’s not definitive? The main purpose to which this is being placed seems to be determining whether to give kids stimulants. In practice it’s a drug screener. Ellison’s questions at the end of the piece, which appear to be throwaways, are far more important. What is the right treatment for ADHD? Should ADHD be treated, or is it becoming a cultural advantage? (Oh, look, a kitty — I made that up.)

I have often wondered whether ADHD is, in fact, a disorder, as much as it disordered my own childhood and that of my son. There are advantages to hyper-focusing, to sudden leaps of creativity, things my non-ADHD friends don’t have.

As to medication, it either works right away or it doesn’t. And if you take stimulants without ADHD you’re just doing speed. You don’t do better work on speed, but if an ADHD kid can get his body and mind on the same wavelength, one that matches that of the class, you will see the benefits right away.

Sure, ADHD comes with problems, but give me some staff for the scut work and I can still do wonders — I have always known I could do wonders.

Knowing that what I have is an organic condition, with a comprehensible set of symptoms and problems I can learn to deal with, has been more powerful than anything else in helping me deal with ADHD, and I know many others who feel the same way.

A drug screener that looks like a medieval torture device, to me, is a step backward.

Read the article online at http://www.smartplanet.com/technology/blog/rethinking-healthcare/the-adhd-machine/1251/