Executive Functioning Wheel

ADHD Is Neurological Not Intellectual

Post Disclaimer

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. The posts on this blog represent the opinions and thoughts of those with ADHD, and are in no way, shape or form meant to be used as a way to diagnose anyone with anything. If you believe that you have ADHD we urge you to reach out to our general practitioner for an initial assessment and possibly a referral to a specialist.

Something that I like to tell people is that ADHD is a neurological disorder that impacts the ability to learn, executive function, short term memory; and is not an intellectual disorder. In fact, their is still a lot of debate over if any link even exists between ADHD and intelligence. Several studies1 2 have shown little correlation between ADHD and intelligence by finding that children with high, normal, and low IQ experience ADHD the very same way.

In fact, Cadenas, M., Hartman, C., Faraone, S. et al. has suggested that ADHD-related cognitive deficits may just get overlooked among those with high intelligence, as those with high intelligence are often more capable of developing coping mechanisms themselves. The issue is when these coping mechanisms are, or become, unhealthy.

So, What IS ADHD?

As mentioned in the title, ADHD is Neurological disorder due to differences in the frontostriatal circuit, which includes the lateral prefrontal cortex, the dorsal anterior cingulate, the caudate nucleus and putamen.3 Yeah, that was a lot, I know. Basically, this brain network receives inputs of Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine that are meant to modulate information processing.

So if this brain network is not functioning correctly, and the information processing areas of our brains are not getting enough of these neurotransmitters, the result is a dysregulation of emotions; inability to control focus, attention, and motivation; difficulty starting or finishing tasks; trouble organizing; and impulsive behaviours.

Executive Functioning Wheel
Executive Functioning Wheel from ADDvantages.

It sure sounds like these issues should be easy to resolve, but, remember, these are symptoms brought on by actual, physical differences in the pathophysiology of the brain. If it were simple to correct, we wouldn’t have ADHD. Many of the skills described above will simply never be a habit for those with ADHD, and may always be intentional.


1Cadenas, M., Hartman, C., Faraone, S. et al. Cognitive correlates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents with high intellectual ability. J Neurodevelop Disord 12, 6 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11689-020-9307-8

2Katusic, M. Z., Voigt, R. G., Colligan, R. C., Weaver, A. L., Homan, K. J., & Barbaresi, W. J. (2011). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children with high intelligence quotient: results from a population-based study. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP32(2), 103–109. https://doi.org/10.1097/DBP.0b013e318206d700

3Curatolo, P., D’Agati, E., & Moavero, R. (2010). The neurobiological basis of ADHD. Italian journal of pediatrics36(1), 79. https://doi.org/10.1186/1824-7288-36-79

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