1. How does rationality and the logical thought processes of those with and without ADHD compare? Please explain the source of the differences. Are the differences thought to be caused by dopamine, serotonin, or norepinephrine? Or is there some other neurological explanation?

  2. How do the math skills of those with ADHD compare to others? As above, please explain in detail from a biochemical perspective.


2 Answers 2


How do the rationality and logical thought processes those with and without ADHD compare? Please explain the source of this difference. Is the difference thought to be caused by dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine or some other neurological explanation.

ADHD is typically associated with a reduction in dopamine and/or norepinephrine. Though the two neurotransmitters are similar on a structural level, norepinephrine is associated with vigilant attentiveness, whereas dopamine is associated with cognitive alertness. ADHD is commonly associated with a reduction in dopamine activity, and since norepinephrine is synthesized by dopamine, there are typically deficiencies in both.

In the brain, cortical norepinephrine (NE) is released during attentional patterns so that learning can commence and be enhanced. When we receive information that goes against sensory information (or what we had previously thought true), NE levels 'spike' and then subside once the information is sufficiently integrated. With lower levels of NE, it is harder to pick up on information, and thus the information may not be consolidated and 'learned'. NE also affects memory for facts and specific details in those with ADHD, and thus it can be harder to recall factual information when necessary. You can guess what happens next, as factual information is crucial for building a 'bank' of information in the brain.

Rationality (by definition) factors in how much information is available, and uses it to maximize expected utility. Those who suffer from ADHD have less information available to them, as they do not pick up on information in the way that the average person might. It is not that they are less capable of rational thought -- they simply have less information to make informed, rational decisions.

ADHD is occasionally associated with lateral thinking, which is a method of problem-solving that relies on creative thinking moreso than step-by-step logic. However, I have found no evidence in scientific literature that suggests a link between the two.

How do the math skills of those with ADHD compare to others? As above please explain in detail from a biochemical perspective.

It depends on how salient math is to the individual. Albert Einstein and Paul Erdős were both considered to have ADHD, and nobody would doubt their math skills. :)

Learning disabilities do tend to work in conjunction. Of those with arithmetic learning disabilities, a quarter of them have ADHD, and up to 31% of those with ADHD are reported to have math learning disabilities. Inattention is typically associated with mathematical learning, as failure to learn to automize computational skills leads to calculation error and slower internalization rate. Children with ADHD typically have problems with fluency of calculation. In other words, it takes longer for them to make calculations internally, and this does not appear to normalize with age. This is because holding information in your head is an essential component of making mental calculations, and this is something that those with ADHD struggle with.

Interestingly enough, math performance in ADHD sufferers has shown to improve with a) more computational practice (so that mental math becomes more 'intuitive'), and b) music playing in the background while attempting to solve math problems. You can read more about this in the article I linked to above.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any supporting evidence for your claim that Erdos was considered to have ADHD? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 22:35

I can understand having learning disabilities. I as well have some mostly mine are linguistic and auditory but when I was little the teachers wanted to give me ritalin. Its funny now I'd like some (really its cousin adderall) but cannot have it because of my other problems that developed along the way. Generally speaking learning difficulties tend to come in bunches. Math learning disorders tend to happen among those who have somthing else. So there is a higher probability that those with ADHD will have trouble with something else besides paying attention but that does not mean you have a math ld only that there is a higher chance you will have it. It might go away too. As peoples brains develop sometimes we mature out of parts of the learning disability. I couldn't spell beyond phonics at all even into the 6th grade but by the time I was in high school it became less and less of an issue. Propositional logic and OCD go well together. Finding solutions to logical math requires the detailed work that someone with unnatural amounts of focus can supply. Its difficult for someone with ADHD to argue with the problem to resolve it especially when the answer is obvious from the start. However those with ADHD can master prop log its just not as easy. Logic in general and philosophies tend to come easy for ADHD people because they can grasp the big picture concepts of Kant, Mill and Aristotle ect. There do exist rationality disorders which have faulty logic but they are mostly inversely related to adhd. They are in the schizoid range right around delusions. When a adhd person has trouble with logic it tends to be in maintaining the strand of logical process rather than getting confused about what is true and false.

So you asked about dopamine and I'm sorry to say that the ADHD disorder is not chemically well understood. There is some conflict in the literature. That is to say the schizod series is known to be caused by an imbalance of several chemicals that is corrected in a majority of patients by lowering dopamine (first and second generation antipsychotics) or slightly rising dopamine and lowering serotonin (third generation antipsychotics). It is not currently thought that there is anything wrong with the levels of the chemicals in the ADHD brain but that medicines are able to be therapeutic to the structural difference by raising your levels higher or lower than normal. Others disagree with this new work though and continue to affirm that ADHD is a chem imbalance. This has prompted some to explore expanding beyond the use of major stimulants and ventured into mild stimulants from the antidepressant class like Wellbutrin for the treatment of ADHD. Even third generation antipsychotics show some positive effects in ADHD treatment.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for the edit, I could not put it in the right words. Thanks a lot for the answer too. It was awesome to read about what you have described about ADHD. $\endgroup$
    – Cogfi
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Cogfi your very welcome $\endgroup$
    – user6939
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 15:59

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