A Little Neurofeedback Goes a Long Way

Written By: Wayne Kalyn

Parents always wonder what brain-training format they should use to improve their child’s ADHD symptoms. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics may have an answer: neurofeedback.

Conducted by the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, the study assigned 104 children with ADHD in second and fourth grades to receive in-school neurofeedback (Play Attention, Unique Logic and Technology Inc.) or computer-based cognitive training (Captain's Log or BrainTrain), or no therapy at all.

The neurofeedback group showed significant and lasting improvements in attention, executive functioning, and hyperactivity/impulsivity, compared with peers in the cognitive training group.

The study also showed that children maintained the significant gains they made six months after receiving neurofeedback in school.

“Sustainability of improvements after a behavioral intervention is not usually found,” says Naomi Steiner, M.D., the lead researcher of the study. “It’s an important finding.” Dr. Steiner noted that the study was important because it was carried out in a school setting, not a lab or clinic.

Neurofeedback and cognitive therapy are two forms of computer-based attention training. Neurofeedback trains users with electroencephalographic sensors embedded in a bicycle helmet to increase their beta waves (an attentive state) and to suppress theta waves (a drowsy state) when viewing their brain waves on a computer screen. CT involves cognitive exercises that focus on attention and working memory with computer feedback to reinforce correct responses.

The study included children who were on and off stimulant medication. This is very important clinically, say researchers, because it suggests that children on stimulants can benefit from doing neurofeedback to train their attention and executive function.