Neurofeedback as an alternative treatment for children with ADHD
‘Hyperactive, distractible and restless are words that describe young David (not real name), a 6 year old boy who was unable to learn as much as his peers and didn’t like school’
Drugs are believed to be the main solution to many physical illnesses and psychological disorders, whereas recent advancement in technology has proved otherwise. Just like David, many children who have maladaptive behavioral tendencies resulting from genetic or biological complications and have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may benefit not only from medications which are likely to give side effects but a new innovative treatment solution called neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback manages the symptoms of ADHD in line with the principle of the biological causal factors of the disorder. Lubar (1991), reported that children with ADHD have abnormal brain wave activity, showing a predominance of slow waves (theta) as opposed to fast waves (sensorimotor rhythm, beta). Children with ADHD find it difficult to sit still and pay attention. They could also be impulsive and hyperactive. Therefore, the aim of neurofeedback training would be to train those aspects of the brain eliciting slow waves and help them achieve focused attention and concentration.
Training and altering the brain wave pattern is a delicate process and needs to be handled by a certified practitioner. In a typical session, sensors are placed on the scalp to monitor and train brain wave activity at specific points on the brain while a feedback is given back to the child though video games, animations and auditory cues via the computer. The child’s performance on the video game is premised on meeting predetermined thresholds of brain activity. David’s central cortex and the pre-frontal cortex were mostly trained to increase sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) which will enable him stay focused, alert and able to learn. Thus, as clients continue in the therapy sessions, they are able to reduce their slow wave activity and/or increase their fast wave activity even after the completion.
A 2005 study by Monastra, Lynn, Linden, Lubar, Gruzelier, and LaVaque reported that children with ADHD who underwent neurofeedback therapy experienced better behavioral control, an increase in attention level, improved intelligence quotients and academic performance, when compared to another group who did not undergo this therapy procedure.
David received a total of 52 sessions though a significant improvement was noticed after the 40th session. David was able to focus, concentrate, stay calm and complete his school homeworks independently and enthusiastically.
The long term results of neurofeedback therapies are remarkable. With no side effects whatsoever, the changes made to the brain wave patterns are permanent and will help such children lead normal lives and equally give them the opportunity to learn as much as other children can. Great potentials exist with this treatment modality in helping not just children with behavioral disorders but those with learning difficulties.
Lubar, J. F. (1991). Discourse on the development of EEG diagnostics and biofeedback treatment for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders.Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 16, 201-225.
Monastra, V. J., Lynn, S., Linden, M., Lubar, J.F., Gruzelier, J., & LaVaque, T. J. (2005). Electroencephalographic Biofeedback in the Treatment of Attention-Deﬁcit/Hyperactivity Disorder.Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Vol. 30(2) 2, 95-114
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