Monday, July 7, 2008

it's all about context

I've had a longterm habit of reading some pretty diverse subjects with new scientific theories being pretty high on the list of general interests. Today I found a positive article about ADHD I think is worth sharing since many of my friends have carried around the label as well as medication for a condition I think is essentially a normal part of being human. The article pretty much confirms my feeling that there's a benefit to being able to focus lightly on multiple subjects rather than just one thing at a time. Here it is for you to decide for yourself:

A genetic propensity for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may actually help people thrive in nomadic environments, says a study of Kenyan tribesmen.

U.S. researchers found that a gene associated with the disorder was linked to better health and body weight in a group of nomadic cattle herders, but could cause malnourishment in their cousins who have recently settled and begun to grow crops.

"Our findings suggest that some of the variety of personalities we see in people is evolutionarily helpful or detrimental, depending on the context," said lead author Dan Eisenberg, an anthropologist at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.

Useful trait

"This insight might allow us to begin to view ADHD as not just a disease but something with adaptive components," he said.

The effects of these genes have been studied in industrial countries but little research has been carried out in subsistence environments which more closely mirror the environments where much of human genetic evolution took place.

"It is possible that in a nomadic setting, a boy with this allele might be able to more effectively defend livestock against raiders or locate food and water sources, but that the same tendencies might not be as beneficial in settled pursuits such as focusing in school, farming or selling goods," Eisenberg said.

The study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Now all we have to do is become nomads and we'll all be perfectly normal.

By the way this is one of my very first silk paintings and what I lacked in skill I certainly made up for in enthusiasm.


Anonymous said...

I joke way too frequently about ADD and ADHD. I'm naturally "focused" on more than one thing at a time, I think.

This helps explain that and how I use it for productivity and survival. It just is and I joke about it, but I don't question it or seek out help for it. Usually, it works for me

Now for the fun stuff - I love the big hands in the silk painting. Love them.

CDP said...

It's good that there's treatment and medication available for some psychological conditions, but I often do wonder if people aren't being encouraged to medicate themselves and their children into conformity.

gfid said...

silk always has the juiciest colors!! and your mer-ms is just as juicy as the colors. love her!! and ..... WOW on the link to nomadic cultures and ADHD. i've always thought there was something really wrong about labelling these folks as 'disabled'.... they're so often brilliant!

okjimm said...

nice painting, kiddo. but everytime I look at it I wanna take a shower. It is about time I come clean, huh?

susan said...

dcup - I think the only reason I didn't get 'labelled' myself is that I'm considerably older than Ritalin et al.

Glad you like the scarf. It's very sweet as it is but is wasn't long before I got MUCH better.

cdp - I agree that there are certainly beneficial medications but I've maintained for a long time that most people suffer from what Dire Straits called 'Industrial Disease'.

gfid - Maybe I should repost some of the pictures of later pieces where the colors and designs got very juicy indeed.

You're right that labels are just another way for a conformist society trying to confine round pegs in square holes. Pisses me off.

okjimm - Damn dyes moved really fast. I got better when I figured out how to slow them down but that's true of a lot of things.

lindsaylobe said...

An interesting article.
No doubt many of our attributes remain suited to when we were hunters and gathers, after all our modern state is such a recent and tiny portion of evolution.

I also think there is nothing more pleasurable than sitting around a campfire or at home around a lighted fire is there? Maybe also a remnant of that time?

Biology is such a fascinating subject with so many modern minor variations to the universal Darwinian Theory.

It seems the independent forms of parallel growth in early cell development, has as their origin simple growth rules which effortlessly create the complexity of much of biology. So we can have complexity arising effortlessly from non complex beginnings. Little wonder there are so many variations.

Have you read Stephen Wolfram –A new kind of science?

Best wishes

Mary Ellen said...

My son was diagnosed with ADHD, which they say is actually a part of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Some kids who have ADHD are later diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, which is something my son has. Without the medication he started taking when he was in 3rd grade, he would never have been able to get through school. My son went off the meds for ADHD when he was a Junior in high school, but he has to really work to stay focused. He's a whiz at math, which is great, but even that is more difficult for him without being on medication. I'm hoping he will make it through college without it.

The foraging for food...yeah, well he forages through my refrigerator on a regular basis and he's eating me out of house and home. I wish I could eat as much as he does and stay skinny, it's not fair! Once he leaves for college this summer, my food bill will drop big time, unfortunately, the college tuition will more than make up for it. Sigh...

You have to wonder, though. ADHD, being on the spectrum of Autism, and Autism on the rise in the United States...what in the hell is in our food and water? Or is it the vaccinations we are pumping into our kids when they are young?

Randal Graves said...

I'm no scientist, though I play one on the internets, but I'd figure there's a difference between 'hardcore' ADHD, where someone legitimately needs medication, and a lot of us that do shift between this, that and the other thing. Even when I'm 'concentrating' on writing, my mind is going all over the place; some things are related to what I'm doing, some aren't. I'd imagine it's like that for a lot of us who aren't complete buyers in the way modern life has been constructed.

I absolutely love the water's appearance in that painting.

susan said...

Hi ME - Welcome to phantsy. The ADHD thing is strange indeed but I'm sure your son will make it through college okay without the meds. It's not like it's a new thing and a number of succesful people who got diagnosed well after the fact led the way.

So far as what's in the water and food nowadays is anybody's guess. I worked in surgical urology for a number of years and the number of male babies born with conditions like phimosis was extraordinary - like 1 in a hundred with the numbers heading up. Estrogen mimicers, secreted drugs, degraded plastics.. you name it and we're ingesting it.

rg - People who live in societies where meditation is better known call that 'the monkey mind'. It's common to all of us - well, some more than others, I suppose. Those without minds we can't do much for or about.

Scarlet W. Blue said...


I had read about that recently, and I think there's definitely some benefit to it. But I know some people who really are debilitated by it. I guess it's a matter of degree?

susan said...

scarlet - I like the new picture of you - classic!

I think I'm really just kind of fed up with unnecessarily medicating children because of social pressures that they behave in a particular way.

fairlane said...

There's no doubt ADHD has "Benefits."

The problem is, we live in a culture that encourages Hypo-Activity, and as little thinking, as possible.

But as Scarlet mentioned, it can also be debilitating. Yes, it's nice to have numerous, and varied interests, but it's also a mother fucker to actually finish even simple tasks.

I think the worst part, at least for me, is, because my mind is always moving, it wears me out, and I feel tired no matter how much I sleep, which, in turn, exacerbates the Hyper Activity/Inability to Concentrate.

Under pressure? I'm Aces.

On a lighter note, will you give me some painting lessons?

susan said...

fairlane - I thought twice about posting the article because I know people (you included) who have serious problems in this culture that celebrates conformity. Maybe I should have left it alone but I just get irritated about the general consumption of the meme that it's people who need to change to fit the systems. It won't be long before I'm out of the workforce, not because I don't have well developed skills in my field, simply because I don't think I can tolerate another total software system overhaul.

I'm glad you like my paintings. If I could transfer what little ability I have I'd be pleased to see you enjoying its use.

Seraphine said...

Give a person the chance to surprise, and they usually will. It just goes to show, everyone has value and can teach us something.

susan said...

sera - That's very true :-)

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Susan, that's an excellent point about irritation over the idea that people have to change, to the point of medication to completely alter personalities, to fit into society.

I hear a lot of complaint about people being on Prozac, but there's a REASON so many are. Society is depressing.

As for my avatar, that's my oldest one! Ask Gary. Actually, somewhere, I have a picture in which I photoshopped the hat onto his head. He looked lovely.

susan said...

scarlet - I've always been of the opinion that depression is a perfectly reasonable response to the situation. The only way to change things for the better is to go through. Prozac = Soma.

I'd love to see that picture - although I can picture it! He's such a good sport I'm sure he loved it too.