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Carrots vs. Sticks: The Science of Reward and Punishment for Children with ADHD

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positive reinforcement and punishment. The central differences: Children with ADHD are not effectively motivated by promises (of privileges to be earned or lost); and positive reinforcement is particularly powerful, but also ephemeral, in ADHD brains.

Researchers have made these conclusions after studying children’s performance on cognitive tasks and monitoring their physiological responses.Altered sensitivity to rewards and punishments may be a core characteristic of ADHD.1 Prolific research on how changes at the brain’s cellular level explain individuals’ responses to rewards may offer compelling clues to the neurobiology of ADHD, and they may suggest effective approaches to behavior modification for children with ADHD.In primates and rats, dopamine neurons in the brain get a boost when they are given an unexpected reward.

234 When a reward is expected, after repetition and training, these dopamine boosts occur when the brain receives cues that predict the reward.

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