A Possible Biological Mechanism for the B Vitamins Altering Behaviour in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


There is a growing body of recent evidence showing that micronutrients (combinations of minerals, vitamins and amino acids) improve the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dopamine agonists, such as methylphenidate, have long been identified as effective in treating ADHD symptoms, by inhibiting dopamine transporter (DAT) function. This article explores the role that B vitamins might have in the treatment of ADHD symptoms by investigating the structural similarities between B vitamins and methylphenidate. We suggest that the presence of B vitamins and their postulated structure activity relationships (SARs) with dopamine may be responsible for the observed pharmacological effect. This pharmacological activity is likely to be via their competitive binding to the DAT dopamine binding site with a concomitant increase in synaptic dopamine concentration, which in turn might activate the postsynaptic dopamine D2 receptor and thus ameliorate the symptoms ofADHD.Further research is required to assess the validity of the intriguing possibility that B vitamins and methylphenidate share a common neurochemical mechanism of action.

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The authors thank Lisa Graham for her expert help with the Shroedinger 2008 molecular modelling software.

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests and no sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

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Correspondence to Professor Ian Shaw.

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Shaw, I., Rucklidge, J.J. & Hughes, R.N. A Possible Biological Mechanism for the B Vitamins Altering Behaviour in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Pharm Med 24, 289–294 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03256827

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  • Dopamine
  • Methylphenidate
  • ADHD Symptom
  • Pemoline
  • Dextroamphetamine