Leonard Mlodinow, a physicist and father, writes In Praise of ADHD in the New York Times.
Ten years ago, when my son Nicolai was 11, his doctor wanted to put him on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “It would make him less wild,” I explained to my mother, who was then 85. “It would slow him down a bit.” My mother grumbled. “Look around you,” she said in Yiddish. “Look how fast the world is changing. He doesn’t need to slow down. You need to speed up.”
In a hyperactive world, ADHD may be an asset, Mlodinow writes. “To thrive in this frenetic world, certain cognitive tendencies are useful: to embrace novelty, to absorb a wide variety of information, to generate new ideas.”
People with ADHD don’t filter out unlikely ideas as well as others, he writes. “This can make them more distractible but also more creative.”
Such individuals may also adapt well to frequent change and thus make for good explorers. Jews whose ancestors migrated north to Rome and Germany from what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories show a higher proportion of the A.D.H.D. gene variant than those Jews whose ancestors migrated a shorter distance south to Ethiopia and Yemen. In fact, scientists have found that the farther a group’s ancestors migrated, the higher the prevalence of the gene variant in that population.
Mlodinow is the author of Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change.