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Stanford University School of Medicine

Spinning wheels: Cycling as a strategy to cope with ADHD

Both Mike8320726273_300c711373_o Sinyard and his son have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And father and son are both helped by the same, non-traditional therapy: cycling

Now, Sinyard, founder of  Specialized Bikes, wants to see if the pair's favorite activity will help others with the same condition. His non-profit, the Specialized Foundation, is working with Stanford's Allan Reiss, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who plans to use a precision-health approach to develop treat individuals with the disorder. And yes, for some patients, that may include a bicycle.

Neither Reiss nor Sinyard expect bicycling to be a "magic cure-all," as a recent piece in Outside Magazine explains:

 To start, Reiss' team will use a technology called NIRS, or near-infrared light spectroscopy, to examine adolescents and adults without ADHD. NIRS uses infrared light to measure blood flow within the brain in real time, so researchers can watch what's going on in subjects' heads as they ride stationary bikes. (Subjects will have little probes attached to their scalps.) As his team figures out how cycling and different cycling programs affect the brain, they'll look at how any changes observed in the brain affect behavior--including behaviors typically seen in people with ADHD, like issues with concentration, attention, and inhibition.

Those results will lead Reiss's team to the final phase of the study: finding people with ADHD whose behaviors mirror those that cycling affects. 'We hope we'll find a subgroup of people who have ADHD who are particularly likely to respond to respond to cycling exercise,' he says.

That could lead to more precise therapies for ADHD. And perhaps even a greater understanding of its basic biology, something that is sorely needed, Reiss says: "There could be 10 to 100 different pathways that can lead to the same ADHD symptoms."

Previously: Art of Neuroscience competition highlights beauty of the brain, Training creativity: To obtain a zany brain, don't strain it. Unchain it. and Study shows that different brain cells process positive and negative experiences
Image by Steven Lilley

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