Inattentive ADHD, Baby Boomers and the Aging Brain's Default Mode

The world works in mysterious ways. People with Inattentive ADHD and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT) may finally get more scientific insight into what is causing their symptoms thanks to Baby Boomers and a new discovery called the Brain's Default Mode.

As the cohort of Baby Boomers age, this huge demographic is driving research into what happens to our aging brains that make us forgetful, mentally slower, unfocused and unable to tune out irrelevant distractions.

I have just finished a book called The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain by Barbara Strauch and I was struck by how the aging brain resembles the brain of people with Inattentive ADHD. Researchers are now, with Pet Scans and other diagnostic tools, able to see a decrease in brain cell communication in the aging brain, they are able to actually see the brain daydreaming and they have just discovered a brand new brain state which they have called the Brain's Default Mode.

This default mode is described by researchers as a brain mode where the brain is distracted by silent but continuous chatter. This is the part of the brain that when you are doing nothing starts thinking thoughts like, 'Boy, that cobweb on the wall has an interesting pattern and maybe I will make a design on my notebook with that pattern..."

Apparently, as the brain ages, it's ability to switch off the default mode starts to become less efficient and scientist are now seeing that older individuals have poorer memories, slower processing speeds and are less focused because, during problem solving, they use their prefrontal cortex less and the default mode of their brain more.

Using scanners, neuroscientist at the University of California at Berkeley have been able to see the aging brain struggle to maintain focus. The researchers did a study where they showed older adults faces and scenes and told them to concentrate on the faces. The older adults were able to focus but it took them longer, their processing speeds were slower, because they were less able to filter out the distractions of the scenes that accompanied the faces.

Does this not sound familiar? Inattentive ADHD (ADHD-PI)could be the results of our brains being stuck in default mode. It not only explains our problems with working memory and focus, it also explains why some of us have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. The great news is that Baby Boomers are also driving research into the interventions that will keep us from getting stuck in the brain's default mode.

The aging brain does not look as much like the Combined type or the Hyperactive type of ADHD but it does look an awful lot like Inattentive ADHD and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. Hopefully all this new research on the aging brain will, inadvertently, turn out to bring more insight into what is going on in the brains of people with ADHD-PI and SCT.


  1. Thanks a lot for this article Tess. This gives me hope because the medications currently don't work for me so at least I know If add-pi sct type symptoms effect EVERYONE as they age, this will provide motivation for scientists and drug makers to find ways to alleviate these symptoms.

  2. I agree, it brings me great hope as well.

  3. It is reassuring that everyone faces challenges with age, but it this affects so many people who are young that it deserves additional research.

    Won't it be wonderful if researchers studying the Brain Default Mode can help resolve ADHD symptoms in adults of all ages?

  4. I'd like to hope, but it's a little too late. I actually found this when I "google'd" tired of living in an adhd brain.


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