Neurofeedback & ADHD
John has Attention Deficit Disorder, he seems mesmerized by the spaceship that is traveling through the multi-colored tunnel. He appears almost joyful as he sees his points accumulate and successfully completes the game’s next level. Except for the presence of the sensors on his head and the lack of a joystick, this scene would be a normal occurrence in any of today’s households. John would be just another kid playing a video game. However, John is not just playing a standard video game, he is actually undergoing neurofeedback training and learning to self-regulate his brain.
What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), also known as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in their preschool and early school years. However, in children who do not display behavioral problems, the condition may go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed until middle or high school and even into adulthood. It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of U.S. children (approximately 2 million) manifest the disorder. Thus, within a classroom of 25 children, it is likely that at least one will have ADHD. The numbers are considerably higher when one includes children that have attention problems, but do not meet criteria for a formal diagnosis.
The principle characteristics of ADHD are inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These symptoms tend to appear over several months, often with the symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity preceding those of inattention, which may not emerge for a year or more. Different symptoms may also appear in different settings depending on the demands that the situation may pose for the child’s self control. A child who “can’t sit still” or isdisruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child, who acts before thinking, may be considered a “discipline problem,” while the inattentive child, who is sluggish and passive, may merely be viewed as unmotivated or “lazy.” Since these symptoms vary within the population and across different settings, ADHD is not easy to diagnose.
Given the variation of symptoms, there are three subtypes of ADHD recognized by professionals. These are the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type (that does not show significant inattention), the predominantly inattentive type (that does not show significant hyperactive or impulsive behavior) and the combined type (that displays both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).
Is it really ADHD?
Not everyonewho is overly hyperactive, inattentive or impulsive has ADHD. Because everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, the diagnosis requires that the behavior be demonstrated toa degree that is inappropriate for the person’s age. To assess whether a childhas ADHD a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to determine if the behaviorsare excessive, long-term and pervasive. Are they a continuous problem? Do the problems occur in several settings? How do they affect the cognitive or academic performance?
What causes ADHD?
Some of the first questions a parent will have are: “Why?” “What went wrong?” “Did Ido something to cause this?” There islittle evidence at this time that ADHD can arise from purely social factors or child rearing methods. Most substantiated causes appear to fall in the realm of neurobiology and genetics. Environmental factors can influence the severity of the disorder and especially the degree of impairment and suffering the child may experience.
What is the treatment for ADHD?
The National Institute of Mental Health has found that a combination of medical management and behavioral treatment is the treatment of choice. The medications that seem to be the most effective are a class of drugs known as stimulants. According the National Institute of Mental Health, the stimulant drugs when used under medial supervision are usually considered quite safe. However, there are children that do not show symptom improvement after taking medication and/or manifest significant side effects. The most common side effects are decreased appetite, insomnia, increased anxiety and/or irritability, stomachaches or headaches.
Are there any other options?
Neurofeedback is an innovative, non-invasive treatment option that has been found to have significant success in addressing ADHD symptoms. Neurofeedback is direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function mor eefficiently. It addresses problems of brain disregulation, such as ADHD. A person diagnosed with ADHD can train the brain to pay attention. This is done through the use of EEG biofeedback. Sensors are placed on the scalp to listen in on brain activity. The signal is processed by computer and information is extracted about key brain wave frequencies. This information is presented to the individual in the form of a video game. The person is effectively playing the videogame with their brain. To optimize brain regulation, specific frequencies are diminished, while others are promoted. Eventually, the brain wave activity is “shaped” toward more desirable, more regulated performance. Thus, the person is better able to focus, pay attention and control their impulsive urges.
What else is neurofeedback good for?
Neurofeedback addresses problems related to numerous brain dysfunctions. It may be beneficial if you are experiencing an anxiety or depression related disorder, attention deficit, headaches, migraines, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders and/or have a child who is manifesting signs of a behavioral disorder and/or developmental disorder (such as autism). It can also be beneficial to improve overall performance, as is the case with peak performance training. Many of today’s top athletes and business leaders have sought this training to take their “game” to the next level.