Table of Contents
ISRN Psychiatry
Volume 2012, Article ID 589792, 19 pages
Research Article

Toward a Theory of Childhood Learning Disorders, Hyperactivity, and Aggression

School of Health Sciences, College of Public Service, Jackson State University, 350 West Woodrow Wilson Drive, Room 229, Jackson, MS 39213, USA

Received 4 April 2012; Accepted 14 June 2012

Academic Editors: D. W. S. Chung and C. M. Contreras

Copyright © 2012 Anthony R. Mawson. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Learning disorders are often associated with persistent hyperactivity and aggression and are part of a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders. A potential clue to understanding these linked phenomena is that physical exercise and passive forms of stimulation are calming, enhance cognitive functions and learning, and are recommended as complementary treatments for these problems. The theory is proposed that hyperactivity and aggression are intense stimulation-seeking behaviors (SSBs) driven by increased brain retinergic activity, and the stimulation thus obtained activates opposing nitrergic systems which inhibit retinergic activity, induce a state of calm, and enhance cognition and learning. In persons with cognitive deficits and associated behavioral disorders, the retinergic system may be chronically overactivated and the nitrergic system chronically underactivated due to environmental exposures occurring pre- and/or postnatally that affect retinoid metabolism or expression. For such individuals, the intensity of stimulation generated by SSB may be insufficient to activate the inhibitory nitrergic system. A multidisciplinary research program is needed to test the model and, in particular, to determine the extent to which applied physical treatments can activate the nitrergic system directly, providing the necessary level of intensity of sensory stimulation to substitute for that obtained in maladaptive and harmful ways by SSB, thereby reducing SSB and enhancing cognitive skills and performance.