Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
"Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardised tests because they do not have standardised minds."
- Diane Ravitch (Historian of Education)
There are so many factors that come into play with ADD/ADHD. Children and adults who are easily distracted, inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive and/or have trouble completing tasks are given the ADD/ADHD ‘label’. They are also often given medication to counteract their ‘disorder’. Sure, medications are sometimes necessary and can assist with changing behaviour, but the results last only as long as the medication is taken. Major studies show there is no correction of the problem long-term. This is because there is no rewiring of the brain. Neurofeedback is different.
Neurofeedback actively helps you to regulate the parts of the brain responsible for your symptoms. It reorders the brain through systematic training. Functional patterns replace dysfunctional patterns. The result is greater focus, increased calm and consequently, a far higher rate of following tasks through to conclusion.
The Brain Training Centre provides safe, gentle and non-invasive treatment to children and adults labeled with ADD/ADHD. We have seen many, many life-changing results with this condition. Adults and parents with children who had previously felt overwhelmed with their challenges can now enjoy their lives with peace of mind.
Neurofeedback and ADHD
Children diagnosed with ADHD tend to have an excess of low frequency (theta) brain waves and fewer high frequency (beta) waves in certain regions of the cortex, as detected by EEG (Figure 1). Therefore, neurofeedback training for ADHD attempts to minimise the occurrence of lower frequency theta waves and enhance the occurrence of higher frequency beta waves. This is done by rewarding the children each time they demonstrate beta waves during neurofeedback training. Through the process of operant conditioning, the children intuitively learn to promote beta waves and suppress theta waves (Figure 1).
Interestingly, studies have shown that neurofeedback training as a therapy for ADHD may be even more effective than the standard medication (Methylphenidate/Ritalin) used to treat this disorder. This was shown in 2002 by Vincent Monastra and colleagues at the FPI Attention Disorders Clinic in New York, who studied 100 children diagnosed with ADHD (Figure 2). All of the kids were prescribed Ritalin, while approximately half of them also participated in NFB training. The children who participated in NFB training in addition to taking Ritalin showed greater improvements in focus and a significant decrease in hyperactive/impulsive behaviour. Furthermore, only those children who underwent neurofeedback training showed promising changes in patterns of brain activity associated with increased focus. Even more striking was that these behavioral and neurological improvements persisted even after medication was stopped. This was not true of those children who took Ritalin but did not participate in the NFB treatment, suggesting that brain training has the potential to induce long-term changes in the brain.
Figure 1. Neurofeedback as a treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children diagnosed with ADHD, who struggle to focus their attention, tend to display lower levels of high frequency beta waves and higher levels of low frequency theta waves, while children without this diagnosis show the opposite pattern (left). This observation suggests that beta waves are associated with an enhanced ability to focus. Neurofeedback training thus seeks to elevate the magnitude of beta waves and suppress the magnitude of theta waves using operant conditioning paradigms (right). During training, the patient receives feedback about their own brain activity, sometimes in the form of a game.
Figure 2. Clinical trial reveals that neurofeedback training outperforms medication in treatment of ADHD. This figure schematizes the experimental setup and outcome of the study conducted Monastra et al., in 2002. One hundred children diagnosed with ADHD were enrolled in the study. For one year, all of them were treated with medication (Ritalin), while half had their treatments supplemented by neurofeedback training. Immediately after the 1-year treatment period, the Ritalin-only group showed moderate improvement in the behavioral symptoms of ADHD while showing no improvement in patterns of brain activity associated with the ability to focus attention. By contrast, children treated with medication and neurofeedback training showed significant improvements in both behavior and brain activity patterns. Interestingly, one-week post-treatment, the beneficial effects of the neurofeedback-supplemented regimen persisted, while that of medication alone did not.
The Medication Question
Medication is the most common form of ADHD "treatment". While this may help some individuals with ADHD in the short term, the symptoms often remain despite the drugs, or return once medication is stopped. Stimulant medication can have lasting negative consequences which affect many people for life. Some people do not benefit from medication at all.
A recent study, published in the JAMA Psychiatry, investigated the effect of stimulant ‘ADHD’ drugs on the brains of children and young adults. The results of the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the ‘gold standard’ for evidence in academic medicine, indicate that methylphenidate (Ritalin) has a distinct effect on children that may lead to lasting neurological changes.
“Because maturation of several brain regions is not complete until adolescence, drugs given during the sensitive early phases of life may affect neurodevelopmental trajectories that can have more profound effects later in life,” the study authors warn. “Indeed, the most comprehensive trial on the long-term effects of ADHD, the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With ADHD (Full Text), reported that six years after enrollment, medication management was associated with a transient increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression.”
This study provides the first evidence that the use of ADHD drugs in children can alter
the brain’s development in significant and potentially lasting ways.
Even when medications help, they do not solve the core problem in ADHD – reduced activity in the brain’s attention networks. That is why people with the condition may need to continue to take the medications every day, probably for the rest of their lives. But most people do not continue medication long term. More than 75% of teens refuse to take their medication. Sadly, adolescence is the time when they need help the most: Academic demands increase. Risks from impulsivity grow dramatically. Impulsive aggression at recess is one thing: poor impulse control while driving or dating is a much more serious risk.
While medication may provide temporary relief from the symptoms of ADHD, when you use neurofeedback for ADHD, you get to the root of the problem by training the brain’s attention networks to function better. We know from many studies that the brain is capable of enormous change and reorganization through practice. Neurofeedback provides massive practice to strengthen attention networks so that you can sustain attention where needed and disengage where required.
Neurofeedback for ADHD is a natural and safe option without medication.
Can ADHD Be “Cured”?
Stimulant medication and behaviour therapy are the most often applied and accepted treatments for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD). In a recent study published just this year, 2020, researchers conducted two meta-analyses to examine how the non-pharmacological clinical intervention of neurofeedback fits on the continuum of empirically supported treatments. The studies compared APA-recommended treatments (medication and behaviour therapy) with neurofeedback to examine the efficacy of treatment as well as remission rates. The study revealed that,
"standard neurofeedback protocols in the treatment of ADHD can be considered as well-established and ‘efficacious and specific’, with medium to large effect sizes and 32–47% remission rates and sustained effects as assessed after 6–12 months."
This means that up to almost one half of ADHD sufferers no longer met the criteria for ADHD diagnosis following standard neurofeedback protocols. Patient’s core ADHD symptoms were resolved and did not return even after a year. This sort of improvement is unheard of with standard treatments: remission seemingly cannot be attained through medication and behavioural therapy alone.
ADHD is a multifaceted condition with both neurobiological and environmental underpinnings. This means that ADHD is not solely a brain-based disorder but is an emergent phenomenon of the complex interaction of nutrition, sleep, family and social dynamics, media consumption, exposure to molds/toxins, microbiome health, genetic predisposition and epigenetic expression, and many other factors.
Neurofeedback alone cannot resolve every issue contributing to this condition, but it can dramatically improve upon the neurological disregulation occurring in the ADHD brain. When behavioural reactivity and impulse control issues are resolved through self-regulation, then amending the environmental factors which contribute to the condition becomes a much more manageable task.
At the Brain Training Centre we take an holistic approach to ADHD. We strive to support our clients and their families to better understand the dynamics of this condition and how individuals can come to be their optimal selves. It is our philosophy that the ADHD brain, when functioning well, can be an incredible gift.
ADHD: Gift or Curse?
The ADHD brain is a highly sensitive organ. Imagine having a massive radar dish collecting an abundance of information which most other people don’t even notice. People with ADHD have exquisitely sensitive nervous systems - the result, it seems, of a genetic predisposition. This makes ADHD individuals highly empathic and thus able to detect subtleties in non-verbal exchanges, unexpressed emotions, artistic impressions, logical connections, and creative possibilities. Unfortunately, sometimes the vast amount of information coming in from the highly sensitive and broadband antenna that is the ADHD brain becomes overwhelming and it is hard to know how to process all of this information.
This is where Neurofeedback can confer enormous benefit. By training the brain to more effectively parse information we can prevent the system from becoming overloaded (we all know what it’s like to blow a fuse!). When the cognitive and limbic systems are brought into harmonious balance, the sensitivity that distinguishes the ADHD brain can be harnessed as the true gift that it is. When the limbic system is being properly regulated, the creativity, ingenuity, exuberance, leadership, empathy, and joy that truly characterises ADHD individuals can be brought forth!
Recommended by Leading Doctors:
'With neurofeedback the child is exercising the nerve pathways that control attention and mental processing. As these neural pathways are exercised, children develop a sense of what concentration feels like, and they get excited about it. After practicing these exercises over a period of time, the pathways involved in attention and learning seem to work more efficiently. This enhanced brain activity becomes a natural part of the child's functioning.'
- William Sears, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine and practicing pediatrician for more than three decades.
Contact our office today to discuss how we can assist you to live your life with more focus and ease.
EVIDENCE-BASED RESEARCH FOR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF NEUROTHERAPY FOR ADD/ADHD, LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, AND ACADEMIC COGNITIVE ENHANCEMENT.
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