Neurofeedback, A Game-Changing ADHD Treatment
Neurofeedback is likely to improve focus if your child has been correctly diagnosed, and if he or she has a therapist who encourages improvement. Here is everything you need to know about this natural therapy for ADHD.
Many of us have watched a child play a video game and tried to play ourselves. It is fun to lead your favorite football team to the Super Bowl, or to outwit and defeat 99 players in a game of Fortnite. As we play, we feel excitement and pleasure. However, when the game is done, we haven’t gotten any stronger, smarter, or better at concentrating on things like schoolwork. But what if there were a type of video game that made us better at those things? There is, and it’s called neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is not a new type of gaming experience. It’s more like a good fitness workout. While it’s true that the developers of gaming systems have created some impressive video screens, the difference between video games and neurofeedback is that your fingers don’t move the characters to do neurofeedback. Your brain does, when it produces the “right” kind of brain activity. When it is not producing the desired activity, the images that you are trying to control stop moving.
In using neurofeedback for kids with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), the “right” kind of brain activity is the type they produce when they are still, focused, and looking at or listening to something with a purpose. It’s the kind of concentration that should happen when the child is reading a book, listening to a parent or teacher, or participating in athletic, musical, or other organized activities. When a child is in that “active brain, still body” frame of mind, the brain regions responsible for attention and concentration produce an electrical signal or “brain wave” that is pulsing at about 13-21 cycles per second (Hz). These are called beta waves.
On the other hand, when a child reads a page in a book, but has no idea what she just read, or “zones out” when the teacher is talking or can’t come up with a simple sentence that includes a specific word, the brain produces a different pulse, going at about 4-8 Hz (called theta waves). The child is in an inattentive place. When the regions of the brain that control movement produce these “slow” brain waves in a child who is hyperactive, the control center for impulsive and hyperactive behaviors goes “off line,” and your child acts without thinking.
The vast majority of kids with ADHD produced many more periods of theta waves than periods of beta waves. These kids are in a physically “inattentive” state much more than an attentive one when they are asked to perform tasks that are not important (to them), interesting, life-threatening, or fun.
Neurofeedback involves an interaction between a child, a therapist, or “trainer,” and EEG equipment that monitors the amplitude (“height”) of theta and beta waves, as well as muscle activity (facial movements, body movements). After the neurotherapist evaluates the amplitude of theta and beta waves being produced during an eyes-open “resting” or “baseline” period, he or she will set the initial training goals (called thresholds). In order for the child to be encouraged (reinforced) during training, he needs to keep the amplitude (height) of his theta waves below the “threshold” while keeping beta waves above the threshold. In addition, the child needs to keep muscle movement to a minimum. Whenever the child can do this for a half of a second, he is rewarded. The child will hear a tone, a counter will advance, and characters or other screen images will move.
If you are considering neurofeedback for your child, make sure that you select a neurofeedback provider who is certified, experienced in the treatment of ADHD, and who relates well to your child. If you do, it’s likely that the time and effort spent on neurofeedback will be a game changer for him.
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