Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis


with 4 comments

I think I am on the right track.

In the last post I speculated that ADHD and ADD were related in some way to GABA deficiency. I believe attention deficit disorder may be characterised by low glutamate levels with low dopamine levels, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may be characterised by high glutamate levels with low dopamine levels. I believe all types are characterised by low GABA levels, the same root cause that produces bipolar disorder and some types of autism in other individuals.

So here’s some research to back me up.

Dec. 4, 2003 — Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may actually have different levels of certain chemicals in the brain than other children, a new study shows.

Using new imaging techniques, researchers found that children with the hyperactive form of ADHD had 2 1-2 times more of a brain chemical known as glutamate, which acts like a stimulant in the brain. In addition, the brains of children with this subtype of ADHD also had lower than normal levels of GABA, a chemical that has inhibitory properties in the brain.

Both of these chemicals are neurotransmitters that carry signals to and from nerve cells in the brain. Researchers say these differences may explain the behavior of children with poor impulse control.

“Glutamate is an excitatory amino acid that leads to easier stimulation and excited neuronal pathways,” says researcher Helen Courvoisie, MD, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. “GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and inhibits those pathways in the brain.”

In addition to revealing differences in brain chemistry, the study also showed that these gaps correlated to the children’s scores on tests of language, memory, sensory, and learning skills. Brain Scans Reveal ADHD Differences

The study was small and limited, and is a few years old now. I do not know whether it has been followed up with any further studies.

Dr. Courvoisie spoke today at an American Medical Association media briefing on advances in neurology in New York.

“Children with adhd have problems that are associated with the part of the brain called the frontal lobes,” said Dr. courvoisie. “The frontal lobes are like the ‘boss of the brain,’ responsible for what we call executive functioning telling the brain and body what to do.” This area regulates impulse control, attention, movement and elaborating on thoughts.


“There are three types of adhd: attention-deficit, hyperactive and combined type,” explained Dr. courvoisie. “We focused on the hyperactive type to try to get the clearest picture of what was going awry with their executive function.”

“There is a partial malfunctioning of this ‘boss of the brain’ in adhd,” said Dr. courvoisie. “I describe it as having a poor manager, like the pointy-headed boss in the Dilbert cartoons he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he can”t run a good company and everyone becomes frustrated.”

adhd is characterized by difficulty concentrating and paying attention, and a high degree of restless and impulsive behavior. Although the problems may be less pronounced in adulthood, it is often a lifelong condition.


“The great increase in the diagnosis of adhd has created some controversy,” said Dr. courvoisie. “It is important to understand and identify the underlying neurology of adhd so that children with adhd can be appropriately treated. There are real deficients these are not just fidgety kids.” Imaging children with ADHD

Here is a link to the pubmed abstract, and another to the free full text of the study online. Something interesting of note is that glutamine as well as glutamate were elevated in both frontal areas of the brain in these children, while increased N-acetyl aspartate and choline were found in the right frontal area of the group.

Eggs contain high amounts of choline. I wonder if this is why some people react badly to eggs? My ADHD sister was sensitive to eggs when she was a child. I am ADD without the hyperactivity, unless I really push up my glutamate levels with B12/folate. I am not sensitive to eggs. The other difference between us is that she is left handed and I am right handed. Could brain laterality affect outcome?

Unfortunately the pubmed abstract does not contain the word ‘GABA’ which makes it difficult to find in searches. Courvisie has also done a similar study on children with bipolar disorder (full text here) and found that glutamate and glutamine were both elevated in the frontal lobes and basal ganglia. They also had elevated lipid levels in the frontal lobes but not the temporal lobes, while while N-acetyl aspartate and choline levels were normal.

If the main problem in ADHD is glutamate/gaba imbalance, one would expect to find that ADHD children are helped by epilepsy medications that enhance GABA signalling, like sodium valproate. So, whilst perusing pubmed, I also found the following mini-study:

We treated three boys with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) associated with giant somatosensory evoked potentials (SEP). All responded well to extended-release valproate (EVA), a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) enhancer. Improvement particularly involved hyperactivity and impulsivity. When methylphenidate previously was administered to two patients, symptoms worsened. EVA therefore may be preferable for ADHD with giant SEP. Favorable response of ADHD with giant SEP to extended-release valproate

It looks like a ketogenic diet all round then!


Written by alienrobotgirl

10 November, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Neurotransmitters

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4 Responses

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  1. I suffer very badly from ADD when i’m on the verge of having a panic attack. I know this is low GABA, low dopamine, high adrenaline, and I always thought high glutamate because I stim like crazy in the meltdown. Occassionally I can turn into a rabbit in the headlights.

    I get ADD just when people sit anywhere near me, or come to talk to me sometimes. Its highly frustrating!

    I’ve been having irritable mania in the past few days (ovulation) – rushing around, can’t be touched, aggressive, impulsive, not really like me… Then I took an anti-fungal drug for some thrush issues and I ended up having ADD and a panic attack instead. I can only think the dopamine levels went down with some methylation, but everything kinda remained the same.

    On the whole I am not a huge ADD sufferer rather I am compulsive workaholic. When my glutamate is low, I find it more difficult to understand and remember things. I think i’m more antisocial and feel low. My partner though suffers badly from bi-polar and ADD. Recently he’s been taking megadoses of adenosylB12 but I don’t think its made that much difference, it just makes him more antisocial and aspie!

    My bi-polar like trouble is tightly linked to my menstrual cycle though. I get manic during ovulation and crash quite badly every month, I dread it to be honest.


    10 November, 2008 at 9:39 pm

  2. Hello

    Dogtor J ( writes about glutamate’s excitory effects in certain people. He thinks the main dietry culprits are casein and wheat proteins. This does not seem right to me since other foods contain glutamate too. But he did pinpoint my problem of A1 milk (and cream) consumed in the evening causing me to wake up in the early hours. A2 does not seem to be a problem for me. Any thoughts?

    Cheers, Lee


    13 November, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  3. Same thoughts as you Lee – dogtorj is missing a lot of the pieces. A1 milk reactions can be caused by opioid-peptides releasing histamine too. I actually have a dog who is sensitive to NSAIDs, amines/glutamates, refuses to touch vegetables, but does very well with butter and pasta in his (mainly raw meat) diet. Trust me to have an ADHD dog. I think dogtorj would find a more complex picture if he knew about failsafe and was able to do more complex dietary trials on dogs. Replacing commercial dog food with raw meat isn’t really controlling your variables, because commercial dog food is full of food colourings and glutamates.


    8 February, 2009 at 7:50 pm

  4. Hi Elena,

    I hate that time of the month too. I usually get brain fog, bread cravings, and one out of three cycles a migraine that makes me feel like I’m dying.

    The menstrual cycle can be disturbed in people who have bipolar symptoms, and also in celiac disease. Celiacs tend to have low dopamine and high prolactin levels. Dopamine and prolactin oppose one another, when levels of one are low levels of the other rise, and prolactin is a hormone that acts as a contraceptive/affects the menstrual cycle, lowers the sex drive, promotes lactation and maturation of the mammary glands. Seems like ADD + low sex drive + big boobs go together in women! Prolactin has a diurnal cycle. I don’t know what it is, but I do know I concentrate best in the early afternoon and late at night. The only time I can concentrate on writing is between about 10:00PM and 2:00AM!

    When my mum was in her early thirties, her period became erratic and she was diagnosed with premature menopause. I am sure that diagnosis was wrong, because she was also excessively emotional, stressed, and couldn’t cope with daily life. I suspect she has had undiagnosed cyclothymia or bipolar for years, and the disturbance of her cycle was as a result of fluctuating dopamine/prolactin levels.


    9 February, 2009 at 10:47 pm

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