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Luke Aulbert

UWRT 1103
Malcolm Campbell

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Is ADHD Evolution?
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)is
, a mental illness in which every American thinks they seem to have at times. Many people seem
to think they have ADHD brain or say they are so ADHD. ADHD or Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder is a mental disorder which is characterized by the DSM-V as impairing
one's attention, shifting tasks constantly, and displaying hyperactive behavior (European
consensus statement on diagnosis and treatment of Adult ADHD: The European Network Adult
ADHDSandra et al). Although some people seem to think ADHD is just something kids
experience nowadays, recent research is showing perhaps ADHD is a product of natural
selection, and at one time was needed to survive in nomadic settings. This idea that ADHD is a
product of evolution is controversial, however, as some psychologists, most notably Thomas
Barkley, are strongly against the notion that ADHD could have been linked to evolution. On the
other hand, mMany recent psychologists such as Elaine Morgan and Dan Eisenberg, argue
ADHD is a product of evolution, originating in the nomadic time period. Finding ADHD is a
product of evolution would contribute to the hereditary knowledge of ADHD and therefore
contribute to greater understanding of the disease as a whole.
Recent Research Suggest Evidence
In 2008, Dan Eisenberg, a research psychologist of Northwestern University, conducted
an experiment examining 150 Ariaal people , a tribal group in Africa in which half the group
belonged to a civilized population while the other half belonged to nomadic settings. Eisenberg

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notes a specific gene-allele expression that is commonly associated with ADHD, 7-DRD4. He
notes 7-DRD4 desensitizes dopamine receptors in which lead to increased aggravated behavior.
The study concluded tribesmen who lived in nomadic settings who displayed traits of ADHD
were better nourished than those who did not display these traits. However, those living in
civilized settings who displayed ADHD traits were less nourished than those who did not display
these traits (Is ADHD Beneficial for Tribesmen page twoEisenberg 2008)). Eisenberg concluded
tribesmen possessing ADHD symptoms thrive in nomadic settings as these tribesmen were
impatient, more athletic, and constantly shifted from one prey to the next. In the discussion
section of his research, Dan Eisenberg points, discusses the advantages of these findings, stating
schools could adapt their curriculum in order to best suit the kids afflicted with ADHD and
treatments could change due to this finding. With this information, schools, therapist, and parents
alike could treat ADHD as a change in habits, not as something that will devastate a childs life.
In his experiment, not only does Eisenberg mention the scientific backing of certain gene alleles
that could prove that there is scientific evidence that backs the association with ADHD.
, but Eisenberg demonstrates there is a correlation between this allele and ADHD, thus
providing more evidence that ADHD might have been evolutionary.
Eisenberg is not the only psychologist who states ADHD originated due to evolution. In
Tremblays research article ADHD: An Evolutionary Perspective, Tremblay cites theories in
which helps to explain why ADHD could have been a product of evolution. In ordesr to back her
claim, Tremblay cites another research psychologists research, Dr. Elaine Morgans Descent of
Woman. In this article, Morgan proposes the wader theory for why ADHD could have actually
helped early humans. According to Morgan ADHD surfaced primarily due to humans spending

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time in aquatic waters and spent a majority of the evolutionary period going from quadrupedal to
bipedal (qtd. in Shelby Tremblay). Elaine Morgan concluded that an early human child spending
time in these waters needed to initiate contact with their mother to survive and quotes a previous
study by her stating afflicted with ADHD stating that children afflicted with ADHD initiate more
contacts with their mother and therefore possessed an evolutionary advantage over people who
were not afflicted with this illness. This theory, along with Eisenbergs research experiment
further cements the case that ADHD is a direct result of evolution.
In addition to the waders theory, this article also mentions two additional theories to help
prove why there could be an evolutionary connection between ADHD and nomadic survival, the
hunter theory and the fighter theory. In concerns to the hunter theory, Tremblay cites Thom
Hartmanns hunter theory in which states ADHD might have actually stemmed from our
ancestors to survive (qtd. in Shelby Tremblay). In this article, Tremblay writes traits of
distractibility, impulsiveness, and even aggression could have been beneficial to hunters. If a
hunter quickly noticed something shining in the dark, the source of light was either potential prey
or a potential predator(ADHD an evolutionary perspectiveShelby Tremblay)). Given nomadic
hunters depend heavily on hunting as a source for food, these benefits would have definitely
helped a person in nomadic settings and would have given tribesmen afflicted with ADHD, an
evolutionary advantage. This might also help explain why Eisenberg found a higher prevalence
of the allele expression 7-DRD4 in nomadic tribesmen given 7-DR4D is associated with ADHD
and this Tremblay states hunters with ADHD would have had an evolutionary advantage.
In the fighter theory section of her research article, Tremblay notes the extinction of the
Homo Neanderthals as evidence that becoming a fighter was an advantage for early human

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civilization. According to Tremblay, she states that the extinction of the Neanderthals was caused
by homo sapiens either having a slightly reproduction rate, or by homo sapiens initiating
aggression on the Neanderthals as they were in direct competition with Homo Sapiens for
resources, therefore aggression would have benefited humans. Tremblay notes the typical
aggression of fighters as well as people who are afflicted with ADHD. Since both of these group
show aggression, Tremblay has suggested that a fighter with ADHD would have a greater
advantage than a fighter without ADHD. These two theories play a significant role in presenting
evidence as to why ADHD could have been a product of evolution and help to explain some of
Eisenbergs findings as Tribesmen typically hunted and showed more signs of aggression as
opposed settled populations.
However, not all psychologists agree ADHD is caused by evolution. Dr. Thomas Barkley,
a leading researcher on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder provides a counter argument
about why ADHD is not a product of human evolution. In an interview conducted on him by
Thom Hartmann about whether or not ADHD is evolutionary. Dr. Thomas Barkley proposes that
we do not know enough about ADHD to conclude that ADHD is a product of human evolution.
Dr. Barkley states that just because people afflicted with ADHD can be successful you cannot
correlate ADHD with success. Barkley states Ulysses S. Grant was a great general because he
drank (ADHD Disorder or Differenceqtd in Hartmann)). In his interview, Dr. Thomas Barkley
fails to state any scientific evidence to back his claims up. To defend his argument, Dr. Thomas
Barkley states we do not know enough about psychology to firmly state ADHD is a result of
evolution and when we know enough about ADHD, we will be able to state that ADHD is not
caused by Human evolution. Thomas Barkley does not disprove any articles or studies of

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psychologists such as Elaine Morgans Descent of Wwomen; , he merely states that we do not
know enough about Psychology to say ADHD isnt evolution.
Although this issue isnt explicitly broadcast in mainstream media, popular news sites
such as are beginning to agree with the notion ADHD is evolutionary. In 2008, the
website published an article citing Dan Eisenbergs study about ADHD, author of this
article, William Saletan, states that perhaps ADHD might have been an evolutionary advantage
in the past. Saletan quotes Eisenbergs finding that Tribesmen who possessed ADHD symptoms
were better nourished than those who did not have ADHD symptoms (qtd. in Saletan);. iIn this
article Saletan suggests that hunter gatherers had to know a bit of everything to survive and
mentions an ADHD persons tendency to switch from one activity to another. However, Saletan
also notes this doesn't mean ADHD is wonderful. Genes that promote fat storage may have been
similarly advantageous in subsistence environments, but obesity is still a curse(SaletanNew
World Disorder). With this statement, Saletan is attempting to explain to the reader that just
because ADHD may be evolutionary doesnt mean this changes the nature of the diseasedoesnt
not change the disease itself.

In conclusion
Through these academic articles and studies, there is evidence to conclude ADHD could
have been passed down by evolution, particularly through Nomadic tribesmen. However, we
cannot confirm ADHD is evolutionary and furthermore, this does not mean ADHD is beneficial
today, as Slate Magazine points out that although excessive fat storage was beneficial in the past,

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fat storage is not beneficial today due to rising rates of obesityfor obvious reasons. Certain
psychologists such as Thomas Barkley argue ADHD is not evolutionary, stating that
pPsychologists do not know enough about evolutionary history to confirm this is the case,
however the majority of psychologist are leaning towards the notion of ADHD being
evolutionary. Although pPsychologist cannot confirm ADHD is linked to evolution, recent
research provides substantial evidence that a connection between evolution and ADHD exist.

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Works Cited
ADHD Hunter vs Farmer Theory ADHD Theories ADHD health, 09 Sept 2014. Web. 07

Mar. 2016

Eisenberg, Dan Ta, Benjamin Campbell, Peter B. Gray, and Michael D. Sorenson.
Dopamine Receptor Genetic Polymorphisms and Body Composition in Undernourished
Pastoralists: An Exploration of Nutrition Indices among Nomadic and Recently Settled
Ariaal Men of Northern Kenya. BMC Evolutionary Biology 8.1 (2008): 173. Web. 7
Mar. 2016.
Hartmann, Thom, and Vaudree Lavallee. ADHD: Disorder or Difference? Thom Hartmann.
Thom Hartmann Program, 01 Nov. 2007. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Morgan, Elaine. "The Descent of Woman." (Book, 1972) []. World Cat, 2010. Web.

10 Apr. 2016.

Saletan, William. "Was ADHD an Evolutionary Asset?" SlateNew World Disorder. The Slate

n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2016

Sandra et al. "BMC Psychiatry." European Consensus Statement on Diagnosis and the
Treatment of Adult ADHD: The European Network Adult ADHD. BioMed Central, 03 Sept.
2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
Shelley-Tremblay, John F., and Lee A. Rosn.Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: An

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Evolutionary Perspective. The Journal of Genetic Psychology 157.4 (1996): 443-53.

Colorado State University, 2001. 15 Mar. 2016.