Nomads and Demigods, Heroes with ADHD

 This weekend I went to see the new movie, The Lightening Thief, with my sons.  My eldest son has read the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan and he has been anxiously waiting for this movie to come out.  The movie was great and it had the added benefit of having a hero, Percy, who has ADHD. 

The hero is a Demigod, the son of a human mother and Poseidon, who has had a very difficult time living among humans.  He has been moved from school to school and at every school he has done miserably.  Percy has dyslexia and ADHD and is not a happy child.  He spends a lot of time zoned out, getting away from the outside world, floating at the bottom of a pool.  When his protector and friend, a satyr, tells him that he is a Demigod, Percy argues that he can't be because he is disabled with ADHD and Dyslexia.  The satyr explains that the ADHD is not a disability.  It is necessary and extremely helpful as it improves his ability to battle with Hydras and Hell Hounds, (he is dyslexic because his brain is programmed to read Greek).

Last summer Anthropologist discovered a Nomad group in Africa who carried one of the main genes known to cause Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD.  These Nomads were much better nourished than their non-ADHD gene carrying Nomad neighbors.  The Anthropologist theorized that in primitive times this ADHD gene was probably beneficial for this group of Nomads. Individuals with this gene were more likely to battle for food because of their impulsiveness and more likely to move to areas where hunting was better because of their hyperactivity.  They were less likely to be taken by surprise by dangers or predators, the anthropologist hypothesized because distractions immediately got their full attention.

Looking at the symptoms of ADHD, from the perspective of a primitive culture (or a Demigod), you  understand how these symptoms could have come in pretty darn handy in earlier times.   From this perspective the symptoms of ADHD are just less useful, rudimentary, behaviors which many of us may find   in our inherited bag of genes.

What I find interesting is that I see the symptoms of distractibility and hyperactivity becoming more prevalent than they were 10 years ago.  Transportations systems have evolved so that mobility is far easier and cheaper and most people are constantly on the go and every day there is another new electronics gadget on the market which promises to give us yet more information or amusement, making us even more distracted than we were before. 

People tell me all the time that they are developing ADHD.  Are we today, as a society, showing more signs of the symptoms of ADHD?  Is there something in the way that we live today that could make individuals with these symptoms have some sort of an advantage?  Could we be entering a time when the genetic variant which causes the symptoms of ADHD is once again useful??   I would love to hear what you think!

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