Medication, psychotherapy and coaching have been a part of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatments for decades. While these are still considered go-to methods of reducing ADHD symptoms, a newer treatment has garnered attention.
Neurofeedback was the subject of a recent study by Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The studysampled 104 students in the second and fourth grade, and split these students up into three different groups. One group received neurofeedback, computer-based cognitive therapy was administered to the second group, and the third group did not receive any kind of therapy. The group that received neurofeedback showed the most improvement in attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity compared to the cognitive therapy group.
Neurofeedback involves seating a person with ADHD in front of a computer and attaching electrodes around their scalp. The sensors on these electrodes record brain waves that a clinician can see on a computer. If the patient’s thoughts are cohesive and relaxed, soothing sounds come from the program, or pleasant images appear on the screen. When thoughts are erratic or disjointed, patients are met with a blank screen or a not-so-pleasant image, such as a wilting flower.
The framework behind this program is to help ADHD patients “retrain the brain,” according to neurofeedback therapist, Dr. Sherri Zaffrin. She explains that with repeated treatment, students or adults with ADHD can significantly improve their attention and hyperactivity problems for long periods of time. The study conducted byPediatrics confirms Zaffrin’s own work with neurofeedback for the last three years, as it resulted in lasting effects on the neurofeedback students, even six months after the treatment.
“In my experience, neurofeedback can be an asset as a way to potentially reduce the amount of medication needed.” says Juli Shulem of CoachJuli.com. “Neurofeedback takes the ‘edge off’ of the symptoms of ADHD. It makes the problems less severe and can often make big issues into little ones instead. Further ADHD coaching helps to create the foundation for cohesion of all the treatment options for a content, functioning, successful individual.”
But neurofeedback has also been met with its share of criticism. This treatment can cost patients up to $3,000 for 30 sessions, and it is not covered by most insurance carriers. Others are wary of making overarching claims about the long-lasting effects of neurofeedback without more concrete evidence, and many more years of clinical trials.
Even still, more studies are emerging surrounding neurofeedback, each one indicating that patients saw promising signs of improvements. It has additionally been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and is gaining ground on a global scale as well. Recently, Dutch scientists published findings that mirrored several studies conducted in the U.S., reporting a reduction in inattentiveness and impulsiveness with neurofeedback therapy.
ADHD shows no signs of slowing down either, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that ADHD diagnoses are on the rise. As the research for neurofeedback expands and more clinical trials surface, this therapy will likely gain more attention, and could be an important part of the future of ADHD treatment.