ADHD and Giftedness
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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is associated with hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. A review of the literature seems to indicate that gifted individuals can be at risk of being misdiagnosed as having ADHD. This study investigated the current literature to determine what types of behaviors demonstrated in gifted individuals can cause such a misdiagnosis. We look at the neurobiological origins of ADHD and intelligence in order to identify potential parallels that can cause similar behavior. Further, because ADHD and intelligence are highly heritable, we will also explore the literature on genetic and environmental factors that influence their development. The ADHD-like behaviors that gifted individuals can exhibit are so-called ‘overexcitabilities’ which are driven by different neurobiological mechanisms. Whereas high intelligence is associated with increased brain size and a more efficient neural network in healthy subjects, ADHD is associated with reductions in brain size and deficiencies in the neural networks of executive functions. As of yet, genetic research has been unsuccessful in identifying strong candidate genes associated with the development of either intelligence or ADHD. However, increasing evidence points to intelligence holding phenotypical properties in ADHD as well as a moderating effect in the development of ADHD. In conclusion, gifted individuals can exhibit behaviors, or overexcitabilities, that may mistakenly be associated with ADHD. However, the neurobiological mechanisms that are associated with high intelligence are completely different from those that are associated with ADHD. This suggests that similarities between the inattentive and hyperactive behaviors associated with giftedness and ADHD are not due to similar neurobiological mechanisms. The different neurobiological mechanisms, together with cognitive tasks with discriminative properties, may provide a successful measure to distinguish ADHD and giftedness, and thus prevent misdiagnosis.