Imagine walking into a living room where groups of people are engaged in different conversations while dozens of TVs each play different channels. Now picture someone from across the room tirelessly trying to get your attention, but failing. This scenario is all too familiar for the six percent of American children and four percent of American adults who deal with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on a regular basis.

So, what’s actually going on inside the ADHD brain and body, and could there be any benefits to having the condition? In AsapSCIENCE’s latest video, “Is ADHD An Advantage?,” hosts Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown explain environmental factors like maternal drinking and smoking during pregnancy are suspected to play a role in brain development, but ADHD is highly linked to genetics. Most of the genes, like the "feel-good hormone" dopamine — dopamine D4 (DRD4) and dopamine D5 (DRD5) — are directly associated with the brain's reward pathways. ADHD patients tend to have lower levels of dopamine receptors, meaning they are less sensitive to rewards. Ultimately this makes them feel bored or unstimulated by what keeps others entertained.

FMRI scans reveal a major difference between the ADHD brain and a typical brain. When at rest, the non-ADHD brain shows activity in a network of interacting brain regions and rapidly switches over to a separate network of areas that respond to tasks that demand attentiveness. However, in the ADHD brain, the default mode network fails to automatically shut down, meaning both networks stay active, which causes a decreased ability to concentrate. Researchers have even spotted a thinner prefrontal cortex in ADHD patients, which is responsible for attention control, emotional regulation, and response inhibition.

These apparent brain structure and function differences have led doctors to prescribe Ritalin, which helps to increase dopamine concentration in the synapse, increasing its likelihood of binding to the fewer receptors. However, conflicting research exists on its overall efficacy and there are concerns about its unknown long-term side effects. The drug has been abused by many non-ADHD people as a way to increase concentration during work or school to study more effectively.

However, can hyperactivity and impulsivity in ADHD patients prove to be advantageous?

A 2008 study of settled versus nomadic members of the Ariaal tribe in Kenya found that nomads with genes linked to ADHD were better at getting food. Here, being restless and hyperactive directly leads to higher chances of successfully bringing home food and increased vigilance for protecting offspring. This means a greater chance of survival and passing on your genes.

Studies have also shown those with ADHD tend to be more creative in both controlled tests and real life because of their innate ability to think randomly and outside the box. Many adults thrive in the right work environment because they can channel their high energy into the right careers, especially those that demand great resourcefulness and adaptability.

This latest research may shows that ADHD could become a patient's greatest strength not weakness.