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Can Neurofeedback Effectively Treat ADHD?

Aug 08 2018

In looking for supporting evidence of studies that have been done to measure the effectiveness of Neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD we came across this nice little summary article. Sadly fully double blinded studies are hard to set up and fund effectively for this type of therapy, but good to see that efforts are being made in that direction.

What Is Neurofeedback Treatment?

Neurofeedback training is an alternative therapy that uses real-time EEG data to help patients train their brains to improve focus, impulse control, and executive function resulting in the following:

    Brainwave alterations are measurable and appear to endure well beyond the therapy’s end.
    Brainwave improvements may lead to behavior improvements — most notably, sustained focus, diminished impulsivity, and reduced distractibility beyond the study environment.

The Science of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback traces its roots to neuroplasticity — the concept that the brain is malleable and that with frequent, intense practice, patients may transform their brainwave activity. Over time, neurofeedback aims to help patients increase the ratio of high-frequency brain waves, leading to stronger attention and self-control.

The brains of patients with ADHD brains typically generate an abundance of low-frequency delta or theta brain waves, and a shortage of high-frequency beta brain waves. Over 20 to 40 training sessions, neurofeedback works to reverse that ratio. The end goal is an activated, engaged brain, and an overall reduction in ADHD symptoms.

More specifically, neurofeedback therapy works to increase the brain’s capacity and predisposition for beta waves, which are associated with efficient information processing and problem solving. In contrast, when a high proportion of theta waves are present, patients complain of incomplete work, disorganization, and distractibility. Neurofeedback aims to diminish the frequency of delta and theta waves.

How Neurofeedback Works

Neurofeedback is a distinct type of biofeedback. Biofeedback is the process of learning how to change your own physiological activity using real-time monitoring of biological data like breathing rates, muscle activity, and heart function.

In the neurofeedback training sessions followed in the studies, practitioners monitor a patient’s brain waves using scalp sensors. These sensors measure the brain’s activity and relay it so that the therapist and patient can see exactly when and how brain waves reach an optimal level. The participants work with the therapist to recognize when the brain is operating in its optimal zone then repeat and consciously sustain the behaviors that lead to this ideal brain state until they become second nature. Each traditional neurofeedback therapy session lasts no more than 30 minutes, ideally. Many therapists use a baseline assessment of the patient’s natural brain wave patterns, and standard ADHD rating scales to continually reassess if neurofeedback sessions are creating improvements, then adjust treatment going forward resulting in continuous improvement.

ADDITUDE researched the major studies on Neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD and concluded the following:

Neurofeedback - A Promising Complimentary Therapy

Existing research does suggest that neurofeedback can result in improved attention, diminished hyperactivity, and enhanced executive functions, including working memory, for some patients.  However, some of the most important researchers in the ADHD field would argue that the efficacy of neurofeedback for ADHD has not been conclusively established.  The bottom line is that research support for both simulant medication therapy and behavior therapy is stronger than it is for neurofeedback at the moment.