World spotlight on ADHD research at the University of Canterbury

New research findings published by a University of Canterbury PhD graduate have received global attention recently, after being published in an international journal and presented at conferences around the world.

Dr Heather Gordon began her research career at the University of Canterbury and has recently published the paper that documents findings of a pilot study conducted in Canterbury.  Dr Gordon’s research supervisors were UC psychology professors Neville Blampied and Julia Rucklidge. Dr Rucklidge, Professor of Clinical Psychology, says the trial built on the findings of earlier successful UC research with adults and has led to a larger randomised control trial, which is currently under way.

Dr Gordon’s experiment treated 14 children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) with micronutrient supplements (vitamins and minerals) instead of medication. The children received micronutrients in cycles of 8 weeks on and 4 weeks off over a six-month period. The micronutrients proved to be extremely effective at reducing symptoms, with symptoms returning within a matter of days during the time off.

Seventy-nine per cent were identified as "much improved" or "very much improved" at the end of the six-month trial. 

Dr Gordon said: "Significantly, we didn’t have one child drop out of the trial and side effects, if any, were mild and transitory. There were also some improvements in mood, anxiety, irritability and other presenting psychiatric symptoms, which you don’t often get with medications."

Dr Rucklidge explained: "Medications such as Ritalin affect children’s ability to sleep, so many parents do not medicate in the evenings, which sees a re-emergence of symptoms at night, whereas the children in the micronutrients study didn’t have this problem." She stressed that although micronutrients given in doses higher than RDA (recommended daily allowance) are available for purchase in New Zealand, their availability is controlled to ensure that children do not come off medications unsupervised.

Recruitment of Canterbury participants aged 7-12 years of age is now under way for the larger 20-week randomised control trial with one-year follow-up after the success of this experiment.

If you are interested in conducting research at an Australian or New Zealand university, you can find out more about how to apply for a PhD on this page. Talk to a Study Options advisor if you have found your supervisor and are ready to make an application.

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