Thought Worms: A Psychology Tool to Detect Early Signs of ADHD!

Thought Worms: A Psychology Tool to Detect Early Signs of ADHD!

Have you ever wondered how many thoughts you have in a day? We typically don’t notice our train of thoughts as one notion transitions into another. But a team of psychologists at Queen’s University, Canada, suggests that we humans have over 6,000 thoughts a day! The number itself seems astronomical right? And what if I were to tell you that your daily string of thoughts can help identify early signs of ADHD? Finding it hard to believe me? Then read on to find out the truth!

Nature Communications has published a study by Queen’s University psychologists claiming to have discovered a new way to detect when one thought ends and another begins. According to psychologists, tracking our train of thoughts can help detect early signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Schizophrenia. It can also help predict any personality changes with mood swings and pessimistic behavior.

Dr. Jordan Poppenk, associate professor at Queen’s University, Canada, describes our train of thoughts as ‘thought worms.’ He says, “While making banana pancakes, your brain might think of the ingredients bananas, eggs, pancake mix, and so on. All of this belongs to the same category of thought worms. But then you’re reminded of the happy memories of eating pancakes as a kid, a new category of thought worms begins.”

Usually, psychologists try to understand what a person is thinking about. This method is both time-consuming and expensive. The study carried out at the Queen’s University provides psychologists with a new method to understand their patients’ thoughts.

Dr. Jordan Poppenk says, “We had our breakthrough by giving up on trying to read what a person is thinking about. Our methods help us detect when a person is thinking something new, without regard to what the new thought is. You could say that we have skipped over vocabulary to understand the punctuation of the language of the mind.”

Dr. Poppenk along with his student Julie Tseng developed a 3-D brain map: aka functional MRI. The MRI notices the changes in the blood flow to the brain and its effects on brain activity. Scientists carried out the study in 184 patients and tried to understand the mental abilities of the patients. The researchers also tried to establish a link between thought worms and neuroticism. Neuroticism is defined as a tendency of exhibiting anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative thoughts.

Dr. Poppenk says, “We found that the more neurotic someone is, the more thought worms they tend to have over a given period. It might support early detection of disordered thought in Schizophrenia or rapid thought in ADHD or mania. So, we’re exploring all these angles.” However, Dr. Poppenk pointed out that though functional MRI is an extensive study tool, it is quite expensive as well. Therefore, it cannot be used publicly as of now. Also, the research is still in its early stages. Further studies will help psychologists figure out the effects of thought worms in different age groups as well.

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