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By Jim Phillips

What Causes ADHD?

Understanding ADHD: Brain Anatomy and Dopamine

What exactly is ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. 

But How and Why does it occur?

ADHD and Brain Anatomy: ADHD is associated with structural and functional differences in the brain, particularly in areas involved in executive functions, such as the prefrontal cortex. This region is crucial for tasks requiring attention, organization, and impulse control. 

Default Mode Network (DMN) and Task-Positive Network (TPN) The brain's Default Mode Network (DMN) is active when the mind is at rest, involved in self-referential and introspective thoughts, such as daydreaming, thinking about the future, or reflecting on the past. Conversely, the Task-Positive Network (TPN) is engaged during focused, goal-oriented activities that require attention and cognitive effort.

It basically boils down to this:

In individuals with ADHD, there is often an imbalance between these two networks. Typically, the DMN and TPN should function in a balanced manner, with the brain switching from DMN to TPN as needed. However, in ADHD, there is a difficulty in transitioning from the DMN (resting state) to the TPN (active state), leading to issues with maintaining attention and staying focused on tasks.

Structural and Functional Differences

  1. Prefrontal Cortex: Neuroimaging studies have revealed reduced volume and activity in the prefrontal cortex of individuals with ADHD. This region is critical for executive functions, including planning, decision-making, and inhibiting inappropriate behaviors. Reduced prefrontal cortex activity is linked to difficulties in sustaining attention, organizing tasks, and controlling impulses.

  2. Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC): The ACC is involved in error detection, emotional regulation, and cognitive control. ADHD individuals often exhibit altered ACC function, which can result in problems with error monitoring and emotional regulation.

  3. Basal Ganglia: This group of nuclei is involved in motor control and cognitive functions. Abnormalities in the basal ganglia have been associated with hyperactivity and impulsivity in ADHD.

  4. Default Mode Network (DMN): The DMN is less effectively suppressed during tasks requiring attention in individuals with ADHD. This inability to suppress the DMN leads to distractions and difficulties in maintaining focus.

  5. Task-Positive Network (TPN): The TPN is underactive in ADHD individuals, which contributes to challenges in engaging in and sustaining attention on tasks.

By understanding these neurological aspects of ADHD, we can better appreciate the complexity of the disorder and the challenges faced by those who have it.

This knowledge also helps in exploring various management strategies, including pharmacological treatments and behavioral interventions, to improve cognitive function and daily life for individuals with ADHD.

ADHD and Dopamine

A core aspect of ADHD is the dysregulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter crucial for motivation, reward, and focus. Individuals with ADHD often have lower levels of dopamine in key brain regions, leading to challenges in maintaining attention and controlling impulses.

This dopamine deficiency is a significant factor in the irregular function between the DMN & TPN Networks. This deficiency leads to symptoms seen in ADHD.

But the good news is now that we know the issue we can supplement for naturally induced increases in dopamine and other forms of executive function enhancements. 

Dopamine Enhancing Supplement Alternatives to Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants work to increase dopamine but often come with harsh side effects. Here is a list of natural supplements that function in a similar manner of effectiveness but without the downside. 

  1. Green Tea Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that increases dopamine levels in the brain, which can help improve focus and attention. No big news here, but the type of caffeine is important. Caffeine from Green Tea also includes L-Theanine which is a calming agent that reduces jitters.
  2. L-Tyrosine: L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to dopamine. By boosting dopamine production, L-Tyrosine can help alleviate some of the attention deficits and lack of motivation associated with ADHD.
  3. Guarana: Guarana is a plant extract that contains caffeine and other compounds which can enhance cognitive performance and increase alertness and focus .

ADHD and Acetylcholine

Levels of Acetylcholine in the brain also play a major role in regulating executive function.

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter essential for various cognitive functions, including attention, learning, and memory. Increasing acetylcholine levels can be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD due to several key reasons:

  1. Enhanced Attention and Focus: Acetylcholine plays a critical role in the brain's ability to focus and sustain attention. By boosting acetylcholine levels, individuals with ADHD can experience improved concentration and the ability to stay on task for longer periods.

  2. Improved Memory and Learning: Acetylcholine is vital for the encoding and retrieval of memories. Enhancing acetylcholine can help individuals with ADHD better retain and recall information, which is often a challenge for them.

  3. Enhanced Cognitive Flexibility: The ability to switch between tasks or thoughts. This can help individuals with ADHD manage impulsivity and adapt to changing demands more effectively.

  4. Neural Plasticity: Acetylcholine is involved in neural plasticity, the brain's ability to adapt and reorganize itself. This can support overall cognitive development and functioning, helping to mitigate some of the cognitive deficits associated with ADHD.

Supplements and Substances that Increase Acetylcholine:

  • Alpha GPC: Alpha GPC (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine) is a precursor to acetylcholine, and supplementation can enhance cognitive performance, particularly in attention and memory.
  • Huperzine A: Huperzine A inhibits acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. This results in higher levels of acetylcholine, which can improve focus and cognitive function.
  • Phosphatidylserine: PS itself does not directly increase choline levels in the brain, but it supports brain health in several ways that indirectly enhance the utilization and effectiveness of choline. It is a key component of cell membranes and helps maintain their integrity and fluidity, which is crucial for efficient neurotransmitter function, including acetylcholine. Think of it like oil for the engine of synapse connections in your brain. 

As shown, increasing acetylcholine levels through supplements like Alpha GPC and Huperzine A can help mitigate ADHD symptoms by enhancing focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility.

Adaptogens and ADHD

Adaptogens are natural substances that help the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being. They can be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD due to their ability to enhance cognitive function, reduce stress, and improve focus. Here are some key adaptogens and how they help manage ADHD symptoms:

  1. Lion's Mane: This medicinal mushroom is known for its neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing properties. Studies suggest that Lion's Mane can stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), improving cognitive function and focus​ (YouTube)​.
  2. Cordyceps: This medicinal mushroom is known for its ability to enhance energy levels and cognitive function. 
  3. Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that helps reduce fatigue and improve cognitive function, potentially aiding focus and attention in individuals with ADHD .
  4. Ginseng: These herbal supplements are thought to enhance cognitive function and improve focus and attention.

By understanding the neurological basis of ADHD and exploring various management strategies, individuals can better navigate the challenges associated with this condition and leverage their strengths for success. 

At Graymatter, we've taken all of this research into account to create Bright MindBright Mind is a scientifically formulated supplement that combines 27 powerful, all-natural ingredients to provide a safe and effective alternative to traditional harsh ADHD medications. Unlike pills or capsules, Bright Mind comes in a delicious strawberry lemonade flavor, making it a pleasant addition to any daily routine. 

ADHD and Intelligence It is essential to understand that having ADHD does not equate to a lack of intelligence. Many individuals with ADHD are highly intelligent and capable. However, the symptoms of ADHD can interfere with traditional measures of intelligence and academic performance, leading to misconceptions. With the help of Bright Mind, individuals with ADHD can overcome neurological limitations.



  1. Alpha GPC: Research indicates that Alpha GPC can significantly improve cognitive performance and may support attention and focus in individuals with ADHD. Link to study
  2. Huperzine A: Studies have shown that Huperzine A's role in inhibiting acetylcholinesterase enhances learning and memory, making it beneficial for managing ADHD symptoms. Link to study
  3. Lion's Mane and Cognitive Function: Clinical studies on Lion's Mane mushroom have shown its potential in enhancing cognitive function and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, contributing to better focus and mental clarity. Link to study
  4. Phosphatidylserine and Cognitive Function: Research has shown that Phosphatidylserine can improve memory and cognitive function, particularly in individuals with ADHD. Link to study
  5. Cordyceps and Cognitive Performance: Studies have indicated that Cordyceps can enhance cognitive performance and energy levels, which can benefit focus and mental clarity. Link to study
  6. Guarana and Cognitive Function: Research has demonstrated that Guarana can improve alertness, attention, and cognitive performance. Link to study
  7. Rhodiola Rosea and Cognitive Function: Studies have shown that Rhodiola can reduce fatigue and improve cognitive function, aiding focus and attention. Link to study


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