Attention Deficit Disorder Incorrect It’s Really A Saltatory Hyper-Attention Phenotype

CCN number plate

What’s in a word, name or acronym? Everything! It determines how we perceive the target of a written or verbal expression. My pet peeve is so-called Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, which should really be SHP.

Photo of FitOldDog's PhD thesis and his publications.

FitOldDog’s PhD thesis, defended in 1975 to a bunch of Englishmen.

Not only is the name dreadful, marking these people as having a deficit, causing them to become a target for overprescribed drugs, like Ritalin, it’s not even accurate. I prefer my name for it, Saltatory, Hyper-attention Phenotype (SHP).

Saltatory: They jump from one hyper-focus to another (saltatory – like saltatory nerve conduction, from one node of Ranvier to the next).

Hyper-attention: If you want them to focus on A for a while, and they jump to B or C, it’s not through lack of attention, but excessive attention on B or C, combined with an inability to stay on A, if they don’t want to.

Phenotype: SHP is a classic example of phenotypic variance, which promotes survival of any species or group of organisms when the environment changes. It is also why one teaching method does not fit all students. SHP people need a different approach to my kind of phenotype, which borders on OCD (also not a disorder in my case, though some might argue).

Electron micrograph of spore of B. thiaminolyticus isolated from sheep during his doctoral studies in neuropathology in 1974..

Bacterial spores are extremely resistant to adverse conditions. Here is an electron micrograph of spore of B. thiaminolyticus isolated from sheep in 1973, as part of my doctoral research on Polioencephalomalacia. Boy, research is fun!

Change ADD or ADHD (H in this case due to boredom!!!) to SHP, and society’s approach to such people would migrate from drugs to admiration, and social leverage of their unique characteristics.

This is why the study of Semantics is a critical human endeavor, and why my Ph.D. committee fought with me for so long when I was defending my doctoral thesis in 1975. It went like this:

I completed my doctoral research in about three years, as a young and enthusiastic veterinarian in Scotland. I published a bunch of related scientific articles, some quite good in my opinion, and possibly still cited as this is an arcane field of study (sheep brain diseases). Then I wrote my doctoral thesis. In those days you used a type-writer, with white out, paid a professional typist to create the final volumes, and printed all the figures yourself if you could. Then you glued them on the pages, sent it all to the binder, and hoped everything was correct (Mine had one page flipped in one of the six copies, so I kept that one for myself).

You then submit your thesis to the university (in my case Edinburgh University Veterinary Pathology Department), and hold your breath as you wait for approval to defend it to a committee of old guys (well, they seemed old then, but I’m now about 30 years older than they were, and no, only guys in those days – the veterinary profession has moved on). My thesis was entitled, Studies on Ovine [in sheep] Polioencephalomalacia (softening of grey matter in the skull, basically the brain). I was permitted to defend, and invited to attend my defense. These guys were very serious!!!!! I consider good research more play than work – they most certainly did not.

Ritalin Os cereal

I don’t know what this is about, but it amused me – yep, some doctors would put Ritalin in kids cereal and Statins in our drinking water!

I entered a dour room, looking about 15 years old (I was a young looking 29, or was it 30), and sensed tension in the air. My defense lasted about 4 hours, of which half was spent with me defending the use of the term, Polioencephalomalacia. Half of my defense was about just one word. This was the name for the condition (a thiaminase-induced anti-thiamine metabolite toxicity, if you really wanted to know) in the USA. In England and it’s ‘colonies,’ the condition was known as Cerebrocortical Necrosis (CCN for short – which is why that number plate dredged up this experience from my memory banks, if you were wondering).

The committee, to a man, was (a) extremely irritated that I used the american term, and (b) they had control over my escape from my Ph.D. – boy, you don’t want that going on any too long.

I explained, as politely as my irritation permitted, that CCN did not describe the condition adequately, as it is not confined to the cerebral cortex, and necrosis is only one aspect of the ‘softening’ of the grey matter. They argued and argued and argued, and I won, based on logic and greater understanding of the subject matter. Or they gave up because they were fed up with arguing, and the pubs were opening soon. I wouldn’t be Dr. Morgan, otherwise. Damn, I was glad when that was over, but I learned a lot about the importance of Semantics.

So! What’s in a name?

Everything! But don’t expect the average SHP person to be too interested for too long. They’re generally too busy moving around, which is a major health advantage of SHP, come to think of it.


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.