Written By: Kristi A. DeNam
Neurofeedback therapy is a safe, non-invasive, alternative option for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. In November 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved biofeedback and neurofeedback as a Level 1 or “best support” treatment option for children suffering from ADHD.
For parents looking for an effective, non-drug treatment of ADHD, neurofeedback is one worth serious consideration.
It is estimated that two million children in the United States are struggling with the symptoms of ADHD, which are inattention or inattention combined with hyperactivity. Common indicators of ADHD with hyperactivity are:
- Feeling restless, fidgeting, and/or squirming
- Impulsive speech and blurting answers
- Having difficulty remaining patient and quiet
- Excessive talking and moving, constantly in motion
Indicators of inattention type include:
- Inability to focus
- Carelessness with schoolwork and other tasks
- Very easily distracted
- Losing or forgetting important items
- Commonly do not complete tasks once started and bounce from one activity to the next
Neurofeedback Treatment for ADHD
Neurofeedback trains children to become more aware of their physiological responses and how to gain control of the brain’s frontal lobe, which is the executive functioning center. Electroencephalography (EEG) neurofeedback is a specific technique under biofeedback therapy, and it is the recording of electrical activity within the cells of the scalp. EEG neurofeedback focuses on the central nervous system and the brain’s activity in order to give moment-to-moment information.
Children with ADHD have higher rates of EEG abnormalities compared to children without ADHD, such as higher theta wave rhythms (drowsiness), lower sensorimotor rhythms (movement control), and lower beta waves (attention and memory processes). Neurofeedback provides audio and visual interpretations of these brain waves, and children learn how to maintain the appropriate levels for functioning.
During a neurofeedback session, EEG sensors are situated on the scalp. Specific brain wave activity is then detected, amplified, and recorded. The information is instantaneously fed back to the therapist and client on a screen. The therapist informs the client what they are observing, and trains them on how to control the brain activity so that it reaches the desired range. With the help of a video game program, the child learns to maintain low activity of the delta waves and an increase in beta waves, or the game will not continue to play. With this, the child exercises the brain and increases his focus and attention.
It also has been studied and reported that the brains of children with ADHD are lacking the regulation from the frontal region, allowing the mid-brain to quickly react without a type of checking system. Neurofeedback restores the strength of the frontal region of the brain, and builds a better connection between the mid-brain and forebrain, allowing focus, attention, impulses, and emotional reactions to become manageable. Children build memory for how they were able to achieve the desired results within the sessions and use it outside of the sessions to produce lasting results.
Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is a psycho-stimulant drug commonly used for the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents. Research suggests that neurofeedback is an equally effective treatment. Children are typically given three doses of 10 mg Ritalin per day on school days. Neurofeedback training is shown to be a favorable option that provides the same results as medication. For parents who prefer other options aside from medication, neurofeedback is a non-invasive, safe, effective, and long-lasting treatment option. Typically, the child will participate in 10 to 20 sessions or more depending on severity of symptoms, and each session lasts 30 to 60 minutes.