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Rethinking attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

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This paper examines two influential theoretical frameworks, set forth by Russell Barkley (1997) and Thomas Brown (2005), and argues that important headway in understanding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be made if we acknowledge the way in which human cognition and action are essentially embodied and enactive. The way in which we actively make sense of the world is structured by our bodily dynamics and our sensorimotor engagement with our surroundings. These bodily dynamics are linked to an individual's concerns and felt needs, so that what she attends to in perception, decision-making, and action is partially constituted by her cares and concerns. What I call “affective framing” engages the whole living body, and ordinarily contributes to attentional focusing, working memory, goal-formulation, and action-monitoring. However, due to affective framing deficits, subjects with ADHD find it difficult to focus their attention, kindle their motivation, and systematically simplify cognitive procedures according to considerations of relevance, salience, and context. Thus, what is impaired in ADHD is not simply a set of executive brain functions, but rather a range of bodily dynamics through which subjects engage with their world. For this reason, intensive behavioral intervention that engages the whole living body may be the most effective, lasting treatment for ADHD.

Keywords: Attention Deficit Disorder; Embodied Mind; Framing

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-12-01

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