Neurofeedback Treatment of ADHD
Why should I do neurofeedback treatment for ADHD when drugs are available?
Earlier this year, the FDA ordered pharmacists to inform people taking attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs – or their parents – about serious heart and psychiatric risks associated with the drugs, including Strattera, Focalin, Dexedrine, Desoxyn, Concerta, Ritalin, and Adderal.
Patients using these drugs sometimes experience increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Sudden death has been reported with the use of ADHD drugs in patients with pre-existing heart problems or heart defects. ADHD drugs should not be used in children or adolescents with known serious structural cardiac abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, serious heart rhythm abnormalities or other serious cardiac problems. Sudden deaths, stroke and myocardial infarction have been reported in adults taking ADHD drugs at usual doses for ADHD. Although the role of the ADHD drugs in these adult cases is unknown, adults have a greater likelihood than children of having serious structural cardiac abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, serious heart rhythm abnormalities, coronary artery disease or other serious cardiac problems.
ADHD drugs can also have serious psychiatric side effects. There have been reports in patients of all ages taking these drugs of new or worsening thought problems such as suicidal thoughts; new or worsening aggressive behavior or hostility; and new or worsening bipolar illness. Some children and adolescents using these drugs experienced new psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices; believing things that are not true; becoming suspicious; and developing new manic symptoms.
Furthermore, the long term effects of ADHD drugs on the brain, including the developing brain and the aging brain, are unknown.
Many children experience intolerable side effects such as appetite suppression that results in weight loss and difficulty sleeping.
Many people are justifiably concerned about medication side effects and prefer a more natural approach to treating medical problems.
What can neurofeedback do for children and adults with ADHD?
Neurofeedback is a safe, effective, non-pharmacological treatment for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder that can have the following effects on symptoms associated with ADHD:
- Improved attention, concentration and focus
- Improved task completion and organizational skills
- Reduced impulsiveness
- Improved behavior and learning
- Increased self-esteem
- Better school or job performance
- Higher intelligence test scores
- Improved realization of innate potential
- Improved scores on Parent-Teacher rating scales
- Prevent the need for, reduce or eliminate the use of prescription drugs to treat ADHD
What is neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback or brain wave biofeedback. Neurofeedback uses sensitive electronic instruments to measure brain wave frequencies and to feed back that information in a way that is meaningful to the child or adult being treated.
How does neurofeedback help people with ADHD?
Children and adults with ADHD have fewer mid frequency brain waves, known as low beta brain waves, than people who don’t have ADHD. Low beta brain waves are associated with relaxed alertness, focus and concentration. In addition, children and adults with ADHD have more slow brain waves, known as theta brain waves, than people without ADHD. Theta brain waves are associated with an unfocused, daydream-like state of mind. Sometimes, children and adults who are explosive or irritable also have too many high frequency beta brain waves. By getting feedback about what type of brain waves are being produced, the individual can learn how to produce more of the brain waves associated with sitting still, staying calm and concentrating, and such tasks become much easier over time.
How effective is the treatment?
85-90% of treated individuals show significant improvements from treatment.
What is involved in neurofeedback treatment?
Neurofeedback requires an average of 50 training sessions, with a minimum of two sessions per week. During the training time, sensors are placed on the scalp and ears so that brain waves can be measured. Individuals watch a computer screen that gives them feedback, either in the form of a game or a video that stops and starts based on how their brain is doing, allowing their brain to learn how to produce the desired brain waves. When individuals can consistently produce more of the desired brain waves, and show a corresponding change in problem behaviors, treatment is completed.
How long do the effects of treatment last?
Fifteen year follow-up studies of treated individuals indicate that for most people the results are permanent. Some people might require occasional booster sessions.
~ Cindy Perlin, LCSW