Neurofeedback Therapy an Effective, Non-Drug Treatment for ADHD
I have used neurofeedback for over thirty years, often with remarkable success in mitigating the debilitating effects of ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, headache and sleep symptoms and conditions.
Specific to ADHD- it is estimated that two million children in the United States are struggling with the symptoms of ADHD. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent pediatric neuropsychiatric disorders and is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention and increased impulsivity. Children with ADHD are often also characterized by deficits in a variety of cognitive domains, including problems in working memory, a generally slower and more variable style of information processing and deficits in temporal processing, inhibitory functions and delay processing. Deficits in executive functions can persist into adulthood and have a substantial negative impact on everyday life. A variety of approaches are commonly considered for the treatment of ADHD (including pharmacological interventions). However, over 30% of children treated with stimulants either fail to improve or suffer adverse effects, including decreased appetite, insomnia and irritability. Furthermore, there is no evidence of long term efficacy of stimulants for ADHD. Neurofeedback, a non-pharmacological intervention, focuses on improving neurophysiological and neuropsychological functioning as well as behavior.
Briefly, neurofeedback is a safe, non-invasive approach, measured from sensors applied to the surface of the head, to train the brain with real time video/audio information about brainwave activity. Different brain wave patterns at different head locations measure different task related activity. For example, activity in the front of the head indexes executive function: the ability to maintain focus efficiently, plan and complete goals.
The effectiveness of neurofeedback training is well supported by the field of research and its clinical application. Additional support for the efficacy of neurofeedback treatment for ADHD comes from the American Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Behavior (AAPB) the International Society of Neuronal regulation (ISNR) and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for rating clinical efficacy: it’s been determined that neurofeedback treatment for ADHD is considered "Efficacious and Specific" (Level 5) or “best support” treatment option for children suffering from ADHD with a large effect for inattention and impulsivity and a medium effect for hyperactivity.
Parents rated their children as clinically improved in inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Neurofeedback Treatment for ADHD
Neurofeedback/EEG biofeedback trains children to become more aware of their physiological responses and how to gain control of disordered brain wave activity that contributes to ADHD symptoms (e.g. inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity).
Children with ADHD have higher rates of EEG abnormalities compared to children without ADHD. The EEG abnormalities are often observed in theta wave rhythms (e.g. twilight zone, drowsiness), sensorimotor rhythms (e.g. hyperactivity, movement control), beta waves (executive function sustained attention, goal planning and goal completion). It’s a strong pointer for a diagnosis of ADHD when there is a significantly greater theta to beta ratio compared to normal’s ratios. Essentially it is the twilight/theta or noise that overrides the beta/signal with the result of diminished ability to sustain focus and attention.
During a neurofeedback session, EEG sensors are situated on the head. Brain wave activity is fed back to the therapist and client on a computer screen. Effective training occurs as the child receives “feedback” (i e. successfully playing a video game by mind control and hearing an auditory reward). Activating the video game is experienced as a reward that reinforces the brain to learn how to normalize brainwave activity for attention and focus. Through regular practice the child’s brain moves from dysregulation to regulation.
Neurofeedback restores the strength of the frontal region/executive function of the brain allowing for normal function and the regulation of focus, attention, impulses, and emotional reactions. The child’s brain builds memory traces of normalized brain waves specific to regulating brain activity and its associated behaviors. The newly established memory traces produce lasting results that continue outside of the sessions.
For parents who prefer other options aside from medication, neurofeedback is a non-invasive, safe, effective, and long-lasting treatment option.