William E. Pelham, Jr., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Director for the Center for Children and Families in Florida, recently set out to try and prove that listening to music while concentrating on a task for ADHD people was distracting. But, he accidently discovered it helped concentration in ADHD subjects as much as medication!
You can read the article here: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-11-children-adhd-music-similar-positive.html
Music helping ADHD brains concentrate is something I have known for over thirty years. Of course, I didn't know I knew it, since I was not diagnosed until I was thirty. I just knew that I worked better with music on. I remember as a teen, I was always getting in trouble from my parents for studying with the radio on.
Now, as a coach many parents report their ADHD child claims they focus better when there is a background noise and worry it will affect their grades negatively.
What is it like inside an ADHD mind?
Having ADHD is like being in a room with a million televisions all on at once, with each showing a different show. We take in ALL the tv's at once. Our brain runs a million miles an hour on overdrive taking in everything around us. It is like your brain keeps going from tv to tv, looking at everything that grabs our attention and trying to assign a priority of which one is most important to pay attention to.
When a loud car crashes on one tv, or a louder voice starts on another, our attention is instanstly switched, tryin to prioritize the important input. This can make us scatterbrained and not productive. That is just how our brain works. But, bring in a radio with some music that is louder than all the TV's in the room and we can focus.
WHY Does music help ADHD brains focus?
Well, there are two reasons. The first being that we have known for a while now that listening to music increases dopamine in the listeners brain. Dopamine is the brain juice that ADHD brains lack, and naturally seeks by being hyperactive, and is why stimulant ADHD drugs work to help us focus.
The second reason is because one noise has an expected rhythm our brains anticipate, stops the mind from taking in everything else going on in the room.It allows us to quiet our brain and to focus on the one task we need or want to do.
We can't concentrate on five things at once. But we can concentrate on two things at once easily because we push the music to the background so it drowns out all the other sounds we were focusing on, and that allows us to move forward, able to concentrate on our important task.
So, don't get on your ADHD kid's back for listening to the mp3 player while reading. Chances are they don't even "hear" the music. They are using it for a buffer to drown out all other thoughts, and to get a "dopamine drip" while they concentrate on that history lesson the are reading for homework.
Think of the music as an "IV bag of concentration" being administered directly to the organ that needs it- the brain, via the ear.
And, if you are an ADD mom ( or dad).... next time you can't get moving to get that room/garage decluttered. You are not procrastinating to put on some music and dance in the living room first. It is JUST WHAT YOU NEED to get yourself going. Not to mention it makes it more fun, AND distracts you from the other things, so you can set your ADHD brain on focus and clear out the room with your music induced dopamine boost.
Written by SuperADDmom/Ril Giles
SuperADDmom is an ADHD Coach to Kids/Moms/Families & Writer of ADDventures of Motherhood Blog.
Ril resides in Eastern Ontario,Canada and is an ADHD mom to two kids who function better with music, and who's favourite music to listen to to get housework and chores done is Great Big Sea and Maroon 5