Week Eleven:
ADHD and Development Lab


Carhart Fellow in Clinical Psychology

ADHD and Development Lab, University of Iowa | Iowa City, Iowa

August 13, 2015

This week we have been wrapping up data collection for the summer. There were only three visits this week, of which I took care of one of them. I spent the rest of the week scoring the data from previous visits and entering the data into SPSS. In addition to that, I have been doing preliminary data analysis using SPSS. Given data collection is not entirely done, and we have not yet incorporated data from collaborators and previous studies, I have only been able to run simple analyses. The current sample consists of 58 adults with ADHD, 8 adults with depression, and 8 controls, greatly reducing statistical power. Nonetheless, I have been able to conduct simple univariate and multivariate analyses to spot trends among variables of interest. Despite the small sample size, differences between groups and relationships among variables have emerged regardless. I will be keeping these preliminary findings under wraps until next week. I hope to explore trends within the data as much as possible before I say anything about them, to prevent myself from suggesting things prematurely. Even then, those findings should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Aside from work in the Lab, I have been catching up on some reading. I have recently finished reading a few chapters in Bruce F. Pennington’s The Development of Psychopathology (2002). The work lays forth a developmental perspective in relation to internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, including ADHD. In addition, Pennington elaborates upon a framework for understanding psychopathology. The author discusses what he terms a mind-body problem in the study of psychopathology. Not to be confused with the philosophically oriented understanding of the term, the mind-body problem as the author describes it as more of a lack of integration between the nosology of mental disorders and the study of the brain, generally. This lack of integration across theoretical orientations is a hindrance to the study of brain-behavior relationships, and thus an obstacle in the understanding of mental disorders. With advances in neuroscience, we have become undoubtedly become better able to integrate theories of psychopathology and brain-behavior relationships.

Figure 1. Causal models of psychopathology. Credit: Pennington (2002).
Figure 1. Causal models of psychopathology. Credit: Pennington (2002).

Emerging as a reaction to this mind-body problem, Pennington delineates a four tiered syndrome analysis (Figure 1) that is thoroughly interdisciplinary, considering perspectives from cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology to neurobiology and genetics. At the initial level of analysis, there is the etiological (causal) level of analysis, where gene-environment and gene-gene interactions are considered. At the proceeding level of brain development, causal mechanisms pave the way for a certain developmental course, influencing brain structure, connectivity, and neurotransmission. At the level of neuropsychology, brain-behavior relationships are elaborated, explaining levels of functioning as a function of brain development. As a general rule, difference in structure begets difference in function. Finally, a symptom-level analysis explains behavioral presentations. This final level of analysis is where a comprehensive nosology of mental disorders is developed. This framework provides guidance for clinicians and researchers in the field and builds a framework in which various theories can be integrated to explain psychopathology.

Next week I hope to share findings from preliminary analyses.

Pennington, B. F. (2002). The development of psychopathology: Nature and nurture. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

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Andrew Crow '16

Andrew is a Psychology and Philosophy major from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.