Our article in March gave a brief history of ADHD. Understanding of the causes and treatment of ADHD continued in the 1930's. Charles Bradley began using stimulant medication to a group of hyperactive children. Using amphetamines, he noted dramatic improvement in the children's conduct and school performance.
This work was rediscovered in the 1950's and 1960's. A revived interest in effective medication and behavioral treatment for children with attention disorders was restored. World War II soldiers with head trauma were studied, with their resultant problems of attention, impulsivity, and emotional lability. Strauss and colleagues hypothesized that an inability to screen out distractions from the environment was the core symptomatic problem for children with minimal brain dysfunction.
In the 1950's it was widely believed that any child who demonstrated hyperactive behavior was brain injured. By the mid 70's it was determined that most children suffering brain injury did not develop hyperactivity. Fewer than four percent of hyperactive children had any hard evidence of structural brain damage. In the 60's most research focused primarily on motor activity levels in hyperactive children. The description of the disorder, again, relied on physical symptoms
By the 70's research from all over the world strongly suggested that the problem was primarily one of inattention and not necessarily over activity. The focus of research remained in addressing the child's difficulty attending to task. This primarily was responsible for the other observed behaviors such as over-arousal, restlessness, distractibility, impulsivity and difficulty delaying gratification.
In the 1980's research continued to focus on issues of attention and impulsivity. This followed with the subject of medication as a great focus of interest.
In our final article on the subject next month we will continue with the current focus of research in ADHD.