Stress, Cortisol Response and Predominantly Inattentive ADHD
The problem with a having a heightened cortisol response is that you cannot think properly and it is ultimately damaging to your brain. Cortisol is meant to be used by your brain in emergencies. Its role is to provide your brain energy in the form of glucose. I will get that glucose by any means necessary including breaking down protein. Increased cortisol levels lead to very poor cognitive outcomes and to memory loss.
Rats who had previously mastered how to navigate a maze could not remember how to get through it after being injected with cortisol. Long term exposure to increased cortisol levels leads to damage in the portion of the brain that regulates cortisol. Cortisol also changes neurotransmitter action in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Problematic neurotransmission action in the PFC is thought to be the heart of the problem in ADHD.
There are many interventions that have shown to improve cortisol response. Regular exercise, EEG Neurobiofeedback, meditation, yoga and massage have been found helpful in improving cortisol levels and cognitive function.
Several schools are involved in studies where the effects of meditation and yoga performed bi-weekly in the classroom are being measured. Teachers are reporting that kids are more focused and relaxed after the exercises and that kids that you would never imagine doing yoga are participating willingly.
According to the Franklin Institute, a study on the results of meditation on cortisol level found that meditation twice weekly for 6 weeks decreased cortisol levels and improved cognitive function. The effects of the meditation lasted even 6 weeks after the program was finished.
In one study kids who received a 15 minute massage scored higher on cognitive performance test than did kids who were just read to for 15 minutes. Regular exercise also increases our ability to regulate our cortisol levels as dose Neurobiofeedback.
There are many ways for individuals with ADHD-PI to gain control of the increased cortisol levels that may be decreasing their cognitive function. EEG Neurobiofeedback may be unavailable or unaffordable for many but exercise, meditation, yoga, and massage are just as helpful and are readily available. These cortisol lowering practices should become a part of the lives and habits of individuals with Predominantly Inattentive ADHD.