How can someone with an attention deficit deeply focus for hours and hours on something?
Imagine playing a video game that’s so fun you don’t realize someone is talking to you. Everyone can probably think of a time like that–when you were so focused that you didn’t notice the things happening around you. We call this hyperfocus.
Many folks with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) anecdotally report that hyperfocus happens really often for them. However, hyperfocus is not an “official” symptom of ADHD. And, until our work, there was no good way to measure hyperfocus and test whether it actually occurs more often for folks with ADHD.
I am developing the Adult Hyperfocus Questionnaire to quantify hyperfocus.
Several years ago we published the first version of the Adult Hyperfocus Questionnaire — a comprehensive tool to quantify hyperfocus in adults with and without ADHD. In our first paper, we published this tool. We also found that — among hundreds of adults — folks with ADHD consistently report higher hyperfocus, and that
more folks with severe ADHD symptoms are even more likely to experience hyperfocus in their lives.
Understanding what brain mechanisms make someone more likely to hyperfocus
Since this time, we’ve been working to shorten and improve this tool. Soon, we will publish the Adult Hyperfocus Questionnaire-2 (AHQ-2) .
Our other ongoing projects include understanding the cognitive (brain) mechanisms that relate to hyperfocus. We want to know if things like the ability to switch tasks easily or the tendency to mind wander relate to hyperfocus. We are also working to study how brain structure, function, and chemicals might relate to someone’s tendency to hyperfocus.
WHAT DO WE WANT KIDS TO KNOW?
Hyperfocus can be an ADHD superpower
One of the major goals of this work is to study hyperfocus within the context of neurodiversity. We want folks — especially kids — to know that many neurological differences, like ADHD and hyperfocus, represent brain differences and not brain problems. If
you learn how to properly harness it, hyperfocus can be a superpower!
We’re continuing to engage in various outreach relating to our hyperfocus work. Our paper on this work was recently accepted at Frontiers for Young Minds. You can watch kids review this work live at the link below!