Mirror of Zen Blog

“A Bad Situation is a Good Situation” [Evolutionarily-Speaking]

Zen Master Seung Sahn always taught us, “A ‘bad’ situation is a good situation, [if you know how to use it]; and a ‘good’ situation is a bad situation, [if you don’t use it well]”. Very simple.

Today, one of the most conditions most increasingly prevalent (or at least diagnosed, and perhaps over-diagnosed) among children over the last two decades is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the authoritative demographics of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that globally affects 5% – 7.2% of youth and 2.5% – 6.7% of adults. Recent estimates indicate that prevalence is even higher in children in the United States (U.S.), around 8.7% or 5.3 million.” [Wikipedia]

“Millions of US children have been diagnosed with ADHD,” according to the Centers for Disease Control, “Boys (13%) are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (6%), and Black, non-Hispanic children and White, non-Hispanic children are more often diagnosed with ADHD (12% and 10%, respectively) than Hispanic children (8%) or Asian, non-Hispanic children (3%).” (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.htm)

lSo, ADHD is a big deal, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars of prescription medicines per year given to young children in the US alone to “control” it.

But what if its existence is due to evolutionary advantages? What if it is actually an appendage-mechanism which enhanced many humans’ chances of survival?

from guardian_us

Traits common to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as distractibility, disorganization, lack of focus or impulsivity, might have been an evolutionary advantage for our ancestors, a new study has found.

Researchers say while some ADHD traits tend to be viewed negatively, they might have helped people seek out new patches for foraging.

Dr David Barack of the University of Pennsylvania, said his study offers a potential explanation for why ADHD was more prevalent than expected from random genetic mutations alone and – more broadly – why traits such as distractibility or impulsivity were common.

“If [these traits] were truly negative, then you would think that over evolutionary time, they would be selected against,” he said. “Our findings are an initial data point, suggestive of advantages in certain choice contexts.”

Barack and colleagues analyzed data from 457 adults who completed an online foraging game in which they had to collect as many berries as possible within eight minutes.

The researchers found that participants with higher scores on the ADHD scale spent shorter periods of time in each patch of bushes than those with lower scores. In other words, they were more likely to abandon their current patch and hunt for a new one. Crucially, the team found such participants also gained more points in the game than those with lower scores on the ADHD scale.

The researchers said their results chimed with other work that suggested populations with nomadic lifestyles that benefited from exploring tended to have genes associated with ADHD.

However, they added the study had limitations, including that ADHD-like symptoms were based on self-reporting.

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