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Treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with Neurofeedback

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition in which there is a delay in the development of specific areas of the brain. This is the condition when parents, teachers and others struggle with the concerns of "why he or she doesn't learn this when we've covered it many times - they just don't seem to get it". Also, they seem to have you "tuned" out when you are explaining something. The reason they are unable to "get it" is because their brain switches to the lower frequency, Theta (4-7 Hz), becoming unfocused and inattentive. This is similar to shifting your car into high gear, but it goes into low gear instead. In fact, from a brainwave perspective theta is next door to sleep, Delta (.5 to 4 Hz). ADHD is primarily managed by using stimulant medication such as Ritalin. When the medication wears off, the brain returns to the unfocused, inattentive state.

One of the newer approaches to treating ADHD is an exciting new learning process called EEG Neurofeedback. It empowers a person with ADHD to shift the way he/she pays attention. After more than 25 years of research in university labs and other research facilities, EEG Neurofeedback has become more widely available. This is a pleasing development because, EEG Neurofeedback has no negative side effects. Instead of using chemicals to alter brain activity, EEG Neurofeedback training uses the latest computer technology to teach people with ADHD to maintain focus and concentration in situations which they previously could not do.

The overall goal of the EEG Neurofeedback training is to improve mental flexibility so that a person can produce a mental state appropriate to the situational requirements. This is what people with ADHD do poorly; they are unable to get their brain to function appropriately. Specifically, the EEG Neurofeedback treatment helps to improve attention, focus, learning skills, and behavior.

What is EEG Neurofeedback training?

Think of EEG Neurofeedback as exercise training for the brain. If you want to increase your body's functioning, then you would go to a gym and start an exercise routine. EEG Neurofeedback teaches one to exercise the neural pathways enabling the brain to concentrate and focus better. Some practitioners appropriately call it "brain aerobics".

The procedure is simple. Sensors are placed on the scalp to record brainwave patterns. In EEG Neurofeedback therapy, the computer converts the brainwaves into game like displays (e.g. Inner Tube, Dual Drive, etc.) or colorful images. The colorful displays are paired with sounds to give auditory feedback as well. The child's degree of attentiveness controls what happens on the screen. Children can play the game by only controlling their level of concentration.

If the child's mind wanders, as it does when he/she spaces out in class, the colors on the monitor change or the action stops. The better he/she sustains their attention, the faster the activity on the screen changes. Just as an athlete uses weight training to build up the muscles needed for his sport, the child is exercising and producing beneficial changes in his brain (settling down, attending, and concentrating). The computer display provides rewards for making these changes. This teaches the subject how to produce the brainwaves that are associated with being attentive and still. With enough practice the subject can do this on his or her own, without the computer feedback.

EEG Neurofeedback allows the person with ADHD to learn what concentration feels like. The training takes 30-40 sessions, depending on the severity level and progress. This treatment produces permanent changes, and follow up sessions are rarely needed. Recent studies have shown increases in I.Q. after EEG Neurofeedback brainwave therapy. The therapy is not making them any smarter, but it is allowing the brain to function better by improved self-regulation.

Though still unfamiliar to most health professionals, several hundred clinicians across the U.S., Europe and other countries, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians are using brain wave training and reporting consistent and significant improvements in their patients, including:

  • reduction or elimination of existing medications
  • increased capacity for handling stress and frustration
  • improvement in sleep problems
  • improved attention, ability to focus and stay on task
  • more age appropriate behavior
  • speech and language problems
  • better classroom behavior
  • increased self-esteem, greater sociability
  • improvements in test scores and school work
  • better coordination and sports improvements