Supplement to the seminar Hyperactive Hearts & Minds by Carla (Nelson) Berg

Beats of a Bouncing Brain Summarized

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Some kinds of AD minds are characterized by an especially rapid but short "high frequency" pattern of thought with a great deal of "bounce" in the attentional signal. Picture small, sharp peaks on an imaginary instrument that can chart strength of thinking on a graph. What you would see in this instance, as shown towards the left of the spectrum above, is a rapidly fluttering pattern with more excitability but less focusing strength. Such a person would be distractible and prone to impulsivity until the arousal of pleasure or pain made the "beat" more intense and engagement increased.

Until something triggers a surge of extra focusing strength, people who fit this "Underfocused" -- or Type 1 -- profile find it hard to sustain concentration for long. When they get excited their excess energies are more likely to seek a physical outlet, which makes underthinking and overactivity their primary stumbling blocks.

Other kinds of AD minds exhibit extra-intense "high amplitude" thinking. If understimulated, they tend to zone out, dreamy, preoccupied, out of touch. But as soon as something engages their minds (and many things might), they overarouse and focus intently, expressing their excess energies mentally, with especially strong thoughts or feelings. This may use up so much of their energy they then struggle to finish all they begin.Overthinking and underactivity tend to be their most frequent obstacles.

On my imaginary brain metering screen, this "Overfocused" Type 2 would show prolonged jaggy lows mixed with tall craggy plateaus that show they can reach high focusing strength but may have trouble sustaining it. This style can be seen in the middle of the spectrum over the codes that begin with the number two. In other presentations of this spectrum you will also see the Type 2 referred to as "mixed focus" or "alternating" to represent that they can and do shift between over and underfocusing.

On the right side of this scale, we see a third group, the Type 3. This type wrestles with high frequency and high amplitude at the same time; their brains "beat" both extra fast and extra loud, which may make it difficult for things outside to register over the din inside their minds. Imagine a jagged flurry of very tall peaks displayed across my imaginary thought processing screen.

This "Hyperfocused" type struggles with a chronic surplus of brain energy that can express both mentally and physically at the same time. The physical side of their "hyperness" may express in hyperkinesis and/or hypersensitivity which at times may also push them into overload where they need to pull in and shut down.

Thus, the underfocused Type 1, if overaroused, wrestles with a surplus of physical energy, and is challenged to slow down bodily drives and increase focusing strength. The overfocusing Type 2, when overaroused, struggles with excess mental energy and may need to quiet the mind to increase the kinetic momentum required to act on those thoughts and feelings. And, as noted above, people within the hyperfocused Type 3 band often contend with a surplus of both mental and physical energies which may combine to overwhelm them at times.

People along this entire spectrum can all be restless, distractible, rapidly bored and inattentive to a disabling degree, all fulfilling what is sometimes called the "holy trinity" of the diagnostic criterion for an attention deficiency. But they arrive at that end by different routes; some struggling to slow down their racing bodies, others to rein in their racing minds, and some beset by both at the same time.

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Overeactors and Underesponders:

The "amplitude" and "frequency" of the patterns described above depict attention and arousal and how they drive each other. Amplitude respresents strength of attention, while frequency represnts strength of arousal. In other words, attention says how strong your focus will be, but arousal says how long it will last.

The one thing all three types share no matter where they stand on the spectrum is an attention span that depends on especially high arousal to sustain focusing power. What distinguishes AD from non is the amount of arousal it takes for attention to activate.The exhibit to the right above demostrates how this spectrum divides into the three primary types and compares their hypothetical "brain beats" to non-AD or more "modulating" minds.

Of course, everyone needs some arousal to engage in a task. But what sets AD "Hunters" apart from non-AD "Farmer" counterparts with more modulating minds, is how much they need and how often — and what happens they can't find it. In its more intense forms, this stimulus quest can be as compelling as an addiction.

The differences in how much arousal is needed and how it engages, sets one style of AD apart from each other as well. Some are Underesponders, low arousers who are driven to seek engagement, but who find it especially hard to become sufficiently stimulated. Others are Overeactors, who easily become overaroused, then struggle to turn off and switch to other activities. Others are Hyperarousers who, being too turned on almost all of the time, are prone to extremes of both mental and physical energy..

Over and underesponders exist in all three styles of AD, in relative degrees. Those who are susceptible to low arousal are especially dependent on the environment to provide the "stimulus push" they need to energize, while Overeactors who are predisposed to high arousal may be too easily stimulated, and live their lives bouncing in too many directions at once.

With focus being this acutely sensitive to arousability, it's not hard to see why people with attention difficulties run the gamut from underthinking to overthinking without much in between.

copyright 1997, 98; Carla (Nelson) Berg, The Professional Resource Group
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