ADHD Researchers Worth Knowing

Yes, ADHD Research Exists

People have asked me what research on ADHD exists (besides that of Richard Barkley, who talks about people with ADHD in a negative way).

Jane Greene asked on Twitter, “Why are there so many autism studies and no ADHD ones?”

Image shows a Tweet from Jane Green @JGjanegreen asking, “Why are there so many autism studies, degrees yet no ADHD ones?” She addresses the question to #AskingAutistics #AskingADHD #AskingAuDHD #AskingAllistics. Image is white on black because I use Twitter in dark mode.

I’m happy to say that an active field of ADHD research exists, though it’s a smaller field than autism research. I’ve been following it, less closely than I do autism research, since about 2009.

Like autism research, ADHD research seems to be moving in a more neurodiversity-influenced direction, adopting the social model of disability, and investigating topics that matter to people with ADHD (such as mental health, successful employment, and aging). There is also more research on adults and especially women than there used to be. Despite what people claim on Twitter, researchers have realized that ADHD is not just a “hyperactive boy" condition.

Where to Start

For an overview of ADHD research, I recommend the World Federation of ADHD International Consensus Statement. It conveys the broad range of topics researchers study and what they’ve learned so far about ADHD.

I also recommend the many papers that came out of the Multimodal Treatment of ADHD (MTA) longitudinal study, which followed people with ADHD from childhood in the 1990s to adulthood. The study looked at every area of life — executive functioning and neuropsychology, but also academic performance, social relationships, risky behavior, and career outcomes. They also look specifically at outcomes for girls and women. Whatever you want to know, the MTA has probably investigated it. On Google Scholar or your favorite database for finding research papers, look among the authors for Stephen Hinshaw or the MTA Cooperative Group.

Another way to learn about ADHD research is to look up individual researchers who are doing interesting work.

Here is my list of ADHD researchers worth knowing.

Warning: this list will be idiosyncratic, and based on research going back to the late 2000s. It will also be biased toward researchers of topics that interest me: brain development and functioning, mental health, sensory processing, motor difficulties, executive functioning, creativity, high IQ/twice exceptional, women, relationship with other types of neurodivergence, and adult outcomes.

It will not include as many researchers from areas I don’t follow: the prevalence or genetics of ADHD or effects of medications. These areas are important; I just don’t know them as well.

Introducing...

Stephen V Faraone, who has an excellent, readable blog summarizing ADHD research. He’s researched pretty much everything to do with ADHD for a long time; you can see the variety of topics in his blog. He played a leading role in the previously mentioned International Consensus Statement.

Pittsburgh ADHD Longitudinal Study (PALS), featuring several authors of number of papers. This study has been following about 400 people since 1999; the participants were diagnosed in the 1980s-1990s and are now in their thirties and forties. So far, the findings on educational achievement and employment are troubling.

Kevin M Antshel, because of his research on people with a high IQ and ADHD. More recently, he’s researched the overlap between autism and ADHD.

Stephen P Becker and Erik G Willcutt, who research sluggish cognitive tempo, which describes some people with inattentive ADHD symptoms. Becker also researches sleep and ways to support delinquent young people. Willcutt is also interested in learning disabilities and the genetics of ADHD and learning disabilities.

The late Joseph Beiderman, a prolific researcher (94 papers on PubMed) with a long career. He studied a variety of topics, including brain structure and function; ADHD prevalence; genetics; medication; and adult outcomes. ADDitude magazine memorializes him here.

Jan K Buitelaar studies both ADHD and autism, with a focus on neuroscience and development for both. She is also interested in medication for ADHD.

F. Xavier Castellanos, a prolific researcher on many topics who has been in the field a long time.

Damien Fair is interested in brain development in humans and other primates. Recently, he’s been analyzing data from the large Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study (ABCD). With this data set, he researches genetics, subgroups, and co-occurring conditions; executive functioning; caffeine use, and sleep. He’s an expert on the technique of MRI data analysis, so his papers are harder to read than some others on my list.

Christopher Gillberg, an extremely prolific ADHD researcher, is especially interested in issues related to diagnosing ADHD, including prevalence, assessment methods, and co-occurring conditions. He also studies long-term outcomes, and has even co-authored a study about chronic pain and health-related quality of life for women with ADHD and/or autism. His research spans countries, including the United States and Sweden.

Florence Levy, interested in the causes of ADHD, is a proponent of the theory that ADHD is caused by differences in the brain’s dopamine system.

Stewart H. Mostofsky, who researches motor skills and brain development in autistic people and ADHDers. If you’re interested in dyspraxia/developmental coordination disorder, you’ll want to read his work.

Joel T. Nigg, who studies the causes of ADHD. He has his own website and Twitter.

Nanda Rommelse researches development; medication; genetics; and gut microbiota and treatment with probiotics and special diets.

Katya Rubia, who studies the neuroscience and treatment of ADHD. She’s currently researching the effects of computer cognitive training, neurofeedback, and electrical stimulation to the brain (transcranial direct current stimulation, or TDCS).

Joseph A Sergeant, who pioneered the cognitive energetic theory of ADHD. I like this theory because it aligns with my personal experience.

Priti Shah, because she researches creativity in ADHD.

Philip W Shaw and Jay N Giedd’s team, who do fascinating longitudinal studies on cortical thickness development across the lifespan in typical and atypical groups, including those with ADHD, autism, high and low IQ, and schizophrenia. They are also interested in the genetics involved. Their group does gorgeous figures that inspired me as a student researcher.

Edmund JS Sonuga-Barke, is interested in neuroscience, cognitive functioning, treatment, causes of ADHD, and the development of deprived children.

Rosemary Tannock, who I discovered because of her research on time perception, but who has worked on other topics, such as executive function and language development, sleep disorders, parents’ involvement in their children’s education, and working memory training.

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Do you have any favorite researchers to add? Who would be on your list?

Loved this story? Hated this story? Got tales of your own to share? Tell me all about it at Mosaic of Minds’ current home on Substack.

This post was originally published on Medium on February 21, 2023 and was edited on June 15, 2023. Please excuse the typos in the earlier version.

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Mosaic of Minds: A Disability Research Review

Emily Morson explains research on neurodivergent brains through the lens of cognitive neuroscience, SLP, & lived experience. #neurodiverseSTEM cofounder.