Blog about personal experience with ADHD by Robert Dawson

How Concerta works genetically

If you're interested in genetics and you take medication, you have to check out PharmGKB. I looked up the pharmacogenetics (new word for me, too) of methylphenidate (i.e., Ritalin, Concerta) and found that it is thought to be associated with several genes and to target several others.

Genes associated with methylphenidate

  • ADRA2A - regulates "neurotransmitter release from sympathetic nerves and from adrenergic neurons in the central nervous system"
  • CES1 - "responsible for the hydrolysis or transesterification of various xenobiotics, such as cocaine and heroin, and endogenous substrates with ester, thioester, or amide bonds"
  • COMT - "catalyzes the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine to catecholamines, including the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine"
  • DRD4 - "encodes the D4 subtype of the dopamine receptor"
  • SLC6A3 - "encodes a dopamine transporter which is a member of the sodium- and chloride-dependent neurotransmitter transporter family"
  • SNAP25 - "presynaptic plasma membrane protein involved in the regulation of neurotransmitter release"

Genes targeted by methylphenidate

  • SLC6A2 - "responsible for reuptake of norepinephrine into presynaptic nerve terminals and is a regulator of norepinephrine homeostasis"
  • SLC6A3 - "encodes a dopamine transporter which is a member of the sodium- and chloride-dependent neurotransmitter transporter family"
  • SLC6A4 - "encodes an integral membrane protein that transports the neurotransmitter serotonin from synaptic spaces into presynaptic neurons"
As an aside, I'm starting to think that lack of sleep contributes most to afternoon nausea.

Extreme focus with sufficient sleep

Last night, with the help of a sleep aid, I managed to stay unconscious for almost 10 hours. Guess how I felt today. Extremely focused. I felt so focused that I worried I might never stop paying attention.

This reconfirmed the value of sleep while taking Concerta. It makes so much difference. Sleep deprivation basically negates the benefit. Plus, I feel incredibly, inexplicably tired. Side note to self: Find out why Concerta does that.

Today, I read a small library's worth of ADD/ADHD information. And I found an excellent website that gives an excellent overview of symptoms. Check out I also bought the author's book entitled Adult ADD Factbook - The Truth About Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I've only read a few pages, but I've already found a part discussing DAT1, the dopamine transport gene, and its possible relationship to ADHD/ADD. Highly recommended.

I also drew today in preparation for a still-life painting. The idea is to include enough detail and take enough notes to rely only on those things and memory while painting. I mention this because I felt very focused as well while drawing for accuracy. Its become harder as I've gotten older to focus on visual details when drawing or painting. I tend to want to draw expressively and improvise. That said, generally speaking, art has always been the one area where I hyperfocus and forget to eat.

My ancestry

I recently joined and submitted DNA to the personal genome service, 23andme. I'll post more about what I've found later. Much of it shows no direct relevance to ADD/ADHD, but some of the findings are significant.

For now, I would like to note that I have become very interested in my DNA. I know my DNA! That's crazy. Most people don't. It's understandably scary. But I haven't honestly learned that much about myself from their results. The most important finding for me has been that I process caffeine slowly, which means that having 2-3 cups a day increases my risk of heart disease. That's immediately useful information.

One part of 23andme is ancestry. So, just for fun, I want to share this. They conclude that I am most genetically similar to Northern Europeans:
Global similarity
Using Google Docs, I also made a chart of it from an admixture proportions tool at

And here is a more detailed look from 23andme. I'm the green marker.
Global similarity - detailed