Genetic Etiology

Behavior-activity level is a heritable trait of temperament characterizing the human species. Individuals who are at the high end of this trait, compared to the average, are behaviorally highly active or hyperactive. Thus, although not necessarily implying pathology or a disorder, but rather normal variation in behavioral disposition, high-end active individuals demonstrate a rapid behavioral tempo and greater vigor and forcefulness than the average. For clinicians, it is important to distinguish between individuals with behavior-activity level as a temperament trait and extreme cases that comprise psychological and psychiatric disorder.

For many individuals, extremely high manifestations of behavior-activity level has a genetic basis. ADHD aggregates in families and twin studies show high concordance rates for this disorder. The neurobiological mechanisms underlying ADHD is an active topic of research. As of the mid-1990s, we assume that the neurochemistry in such people is likely to be disturbed; however, a candidate neurotransmitter system has yet to be identified. Most likely, multiple neurochemical systems are involved. Neuroimaging studies have revealed lowered brain metabolism, particularly in the frontal regions, in ADHD children (Zametkin et al., 1990).

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