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Wag Therapy: Emotional Support Animals for ADHD

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Dogs are the furry, feel-good antidote to stress, anxiety, and a downbeat mood — an almost universal conclusion now confirmed by science.Spending time with our four-legged family members improves our mental health and well-being more than some other activities, Hannah Raila, Ph.D., co-author of a new study on human-animal relationships, told ADDitude.

The study, “The Influence of Interactions with Pet Dogs on Psychological Distress,” was published in the journal Emotion and involved 73 adults between the ages of 25 and 77 and their dogs.

1In a conversation with ADDitude, Raila discussed the research.Why did you decide to do this study? What were you hoping to learn?Human-animal interaction has always seemed promising for reducing distress, but many studies are correlational — they found that pet owners were happier without concluding cause and effect.

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March 27, 2024ADHD symptoms in children are associated with unusual interactions between the frontal cortex and deep centers of the brain where information is processed, according to a recent report in the American Journal of Psychiatry.1 These findings may help inform additional research into the ADHD brain that leads to more effective treatments and interventions.A research team from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Human Genome Research found children with ADHD demonstrated heightened connectivity between brain structures involved in learning, movement, and reward, and frontal areas of the brain that regulate emotion, attention, and behavior.“The present findings suggest that these brain alterations are specifically associated with ADHD and are not indicative of general features of childhood psychopathology or influenced by comorbid symptoms,” the study’s authors wrote.Researchers have long suspected that ADHD symptoms result from atypical interactions between the frontal cortex and these deep information-processing brain structures. However, the study’s authors noted that prior studies testing this model returned mixed results, possibly due to the small size of the studies they suggested.The present study examined more than 10,000 functional brain images of 1,696 youth with ADHD and 6,737 without ADHD aged 6 to 18.