Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is generally diagnosed in children who exhibit attention difficulties, impulsive behaviors, and extreme levels of hyperactivity. ADHD is not classified as a disease and no single diagnostic test exists. Rather, ADHD is generally viewed as an inherited disorder which may be intensified by minor traumatic brain injury, birth trauma, emotional and dietary factors, and inadequate sleep (Othmer and Othmer, 1992).
Also, children with ADHD frequently exhibit a variety of physical problems such as headaches and immune system deficiencies, resulting in frequent illnesses. Additionally, anxiety, depression, oppositional-defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive behaviors may be present. The fact that ADHD is typically treated with stimulant medication such as Ritalin indicates that this disorder is characterized by insufficient arousal. EEG biofeedback is a way to train those areas of the brain involved in arousal and focus. And, it appears that once the brain learns how to regulate itself again that it does not revert back (EEG Spectrum website, 2000).
The EEG of ADHD children differs from that of other children, in that, the brain waves tend to be of a larger amplitude. Specifically, the EEG shows excess theta activity along with lower amounts of beta activity (Lubar, 1991). This pattern of brain wave activity usually indicates a sleep or day dreaming state, rather than an alert and focused state. The goal of EEG Biofeedback training is to alter these abnormal brain waves by decreasing theta waves, while simultaneously increasing beta waves. In EEG Biofeedback training, the therapist explains to the child the connection between what is happening in his/her cortex and what is recorded on the EEG. Then, the therapist helps the child to learn how to gain control over his/her brain waves.
Joel Lubar has extensively studied biofeedback with ADD and ADHD children and adults. He devised the protocol for treating ADD with neurofeedback in the 1970s and his findings have been published in journals such as the Journal of Pediatrics and Pediatric Neurology. Lubar states that between 80-90% of people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can benefit significantly from treatment (Robbins, 1997).
Additionally, Othmer and Othmer (1992) observed that significant change occurred when EEG Biofeedback training was utilized. Fifteen children were tested with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale-Revised by an independent clinical psychologist. In the pretest, the lowest scores were observed in those categories dealing with attention and sequence such as math, coding, information, and digit span. After EEG training, the scores in all of these categories improved. Additionally, an average increase in IQ was apparent, as much as 23 points.
Othmer and Othmer explain this IQ increase as: “We assume that we are not making children smarter. We are simply making their intrinsic mental capability more accessible and useable to them.” (Othmer and Othmer, 1992). Several months after EEG training was completed a follow up with the parents of the children in the study was conducted. The parents noted an improvement in sleep and a reduction in headaches, as well as an increase in self-esteem. However, parents noted that problems in skills (math and reading) and behavior remained. From this study, it is evident that children with behavior problems may benefit from psychotherapy in addition to EEG Biofeedback (Othmer and Othmer, 1992).
Several researchers further corroborate that EEG Biofeedback is an effective treatment for ADHD. In two studies, Michael Linden observed that EEG training had a positive impact on IQ scores, as well as behavior. Henry Cartozzo reported his findings at the annual meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Like the Othmers, Cartozzo found that problems in math, coding, and digit span were remediated with EEG training. He also noted improvements in scores on a computerized test called T.O.V.A. (Othmer, Kaiser, and Othmer, 1995).
The T.O.V.A. (Test of Variables of Attention) is a relatively new test which assesses attention deficits in adults and children. It is a continuous performance test which evaluates deficiencies. Although this test is only 22 minutes, data from it can serve as indicators of inattention, impulsivity, reaction time, and variability of reaction time. (Othmer and Othmer, 1992). Since the T.O.V.A is computerized and computer scored, it removes the variable of human bias; therefore, it helps to increase the validity of EEG biofeedback. Othmer and Othmer studied the effects of EEG training on the T.O.V.A. and they observed significant improvements in inattention, impulsivity, and variability of response time. Additionally, they found that one child in their study improved with EEG Biofeedback even after he stopped taking Ritalin.
This study is further supported by current research regarding EEG biofeedback with ADD/ADHD. After EEG training, clinicians noted that children with ADD/ADHD improved (60 to 80 percent) and that their medication could be reduced without regressing (Association for Applied Psychology and Biofeedback website, 2000).
EEG Biofeedback is not a cure for ADHD, but can help these children to improve their academic performance, social skills, and most of all their self esteem (Othmer and Othmer, 1992a). Biofeedback helps ADHD children to realize that they can overcome their problems (inattention/ hyperactivity) and are not at the mercy of this disorder.
Excerpt from original article. Full article can be found at http://www.healing-arts.org/children/ADHD/biofeedback.htm
Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback website (2000). What Kind of Health Problems Can Biofeedback Help?
Lubar, J. F. (1991). Discourse on the development of EEG diagnostics and biofeedback for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 16, 202-225.
Othmer, S.F., and Othmer, S. (1992a). EEG biofeedback for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, EEG Spectrum.
Othmer, S.F., and Othmer, S. (1992b). Evaluation and Remediation of Attentional Deficits, EEG Spectrum.
Othmer, S., Kaiser, D., and Othmer, S.F. (1995). EEG biofeedback training for Attention Deficit Disorder: A review of recent controlled studies and clinical findings, EEG Spectrum.
Robbins, J. (1997, November 11). Biofeedback Offers Help to Hyperactive Children. New York Times, science section.Tags: adhd, EEG Biofeedback