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Mindfulness and virtual reality as a future treatment for ADHD

The ADHD Foundation hosted their 6th National ADHD Conference on ‘ADHD, Neurodiversity, and Mental Health’ in Liverpool, UK on November 8th-9th. The conference brought together leading experts in the field of child and adult ADHD, with the aim of providing new insights on ADHD and associated conditions. Topics included the importance of brain health, genetics and endophenotypes, optimising treatment for ADHD, late sleep and ADHD, and using mindfulness and virtual reality (VR) as a treatment for adults with ADHD.

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The latter topic was presented by keynote speaker Professor Anthoni Ramos-Quiroga from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He is also the President of the Commission for Innovation at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona and is known for his work in the field of ADHD. Professor Ramos-Quiroga is currently working on the use of VR technology in the treatment of ADHD in adults.

Professor Ramos-Quiroga’s pilot study aims to examine the usefulness of VR in the treatment of adult ADHD. The project utilises mindfulness training – that is, the act of self-directing one’s attention to the present moment, including focusing on any thoughts, sensations, and emotions that one might be experiencing[1]. Mindfulness-based interventions have been seen to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of ADHD[2]. Here, Professor Ramos-Quiroga takes mindfulness-based interventions to a whole new level by implementing realistic virtual environments that have been seen to have a positive impact on patients’ concentration skills. The trial aims to analyse data from 90 adult patients with ADHD, who are currently undergoing six 20-minute VR sessions over a period of four weeks. Treatment effects will be examined directly after the intervention, after three months, and after one year. Further, it is anticipated that a full randomised controlled-trial will be developed based on the results of the pilot study. Professor Ramos-Quiroga hopes to treat ADHD without the use of pharmacological treatment.

Innovative research like Professor Ramos-Quiroga’s has the potential to improve adherence, flexibility, and availability of treatment. His research may offer insights into alternative, more sustainable treatment plans for individuals who may not respond well to medication or for those who are considering a non-pharmacological route.

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[1] Tang, Y., Holzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(3), 213-225. [RETURN]

[2] Cairncross, M., & Miller, C. J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Therapies for ADHD: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11-17. doi: 10.1177/1087054715625301 [RETURN]