Neurofeedback and ADHD

(September 2010)


Brain electricityNeurofeedback is a groundbreaking technique that challenges the brain to function more efficiently and effectively. This powerful brain-based technique has been successfully helping people around the world for more than 30 years. It is a non-invasive procedure that delivers dramatic results for a multitude of symptoms, and is one of the new services offered at the Raby Institute.

Think of Neurofeedback as a personal training session for the brain. Training the brain to function at its maximum potential is similar to the way the body is exercised, toned and maintained. Brain training exercises the neural pathways, which allows the brain to have better function in a variety of areas. To function, the brain must actively maintain its bio-electrical state across all behaviorally relevant timescales. Neurofeedback is brain exercise directed at fundamental brain regulatory mechanisms of these states. The effects of maintaining good brain function is beneficial to individuals of any age.

There are endless therapeutic applications for Neurofeedback, including ADD/ADHD, Autism, chronic pain, depression, epilepsy, migraines, sleep disorders, addiction, learning disabilities, Tourette's Syndrome, peak performance, and more.

 

During a standard neurofeedback session your brain activity is observed and charted. Depending on the specific application, your brain activity is gradually trained and rewarded by creating shifts toward a more appropriate and stable brain state.

Every individual has five major types of brain wave patterns. Multiple patterns are present in the brain at any given time, but each area has a predominate pattern that reflects a person's current mental state. These patterns can be measured and recorded by an electroencephalogram (EEG), which can be used to make a map of a person's mental function. The five types of brain wave patterns are:

 

  • Beta waves: These are fastest waves. When a person is attentive, the brain has a lot of beta waves.
  • SMR waves: These are a subcategory of beta waves. These are the waves that occur in the sensorimotor cortex when a person is quietly focused to prepare for a physical challenge.
  • Alpha waves: These waves are slower. These are the brain waves of relaxation.
  • Theta waves: These waves are even slower. This is the brain wave pattern that a person has when they are daydreaming or almost at the point of falling asleep.
  • Delta waves: These are the slowest brain waves. These are the brain waves of deep sleep.


Treatment of ADHD is one of the interesting and promising examples of today's use of Neurofeedback. The goal of the treatment is to teach a person to change the way their brain works, so that the person no longer functions like they have ADHD. Using an electroencephalograph to monitor the brain waves and a system of positive reinforcement, the trainee learns how to make their brain become more attentive. The result is a significant reduction in ADHD symptoms and improvements in behavior.

When an individual with ADHD is given a task requiring attention, instead of increasing beta waves, sometimes they increase theta waves, the day dreaming brain wave. These individuals have what is known as a high theta/beta ratio. Using Neurofeedback, a technique developed to train ADHD individuals to increase the beta/theta ratio. This symptomatic improvement is similar to what we see when an individual takes stimulant medication. The one significant difference, however, is that for those who take stimulants, the effects only last a few hours. As the medicine wears off, the ADHD symptoms return. When one learns to control their brain waves using Neurofeedback, the symptoms do not return. This improvement is permanent.

This application of Neurofeedback is exciting because of the lasting effects of the treatment. Follow-up studies have been conducted for more than a decade to validate this research. As no other treatments show permanent change, Neurofeedback is a significant form of treatment impacting this area.



 



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