Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition that affects attention, impulse control, activity levels, and learning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that ADHD has affected between 8-12% from 2008-present day.
Some parents being reluctant to medicate their children have turned to non-prescription options, namely neurofeedback.
But What is Neurofeedback?
Many people with ADHD display differences in brain behavior, particularly in the brain’s frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is a brain region linked with personality, behavior, and learning.
Neurofeedback measures the brain’s electrical waves. It may be used to treat people with ADHD by training them to use their brains differently.
Brain function and behavior impact each other. Therefore, changes in behavior can change the brain, and changes in the brain can change behavior.
Neurofeedback aims to change behavior by changing the brain.
The brain produces measurable electrical signals. Neurofeedback measures these electrical waves, usually with a device called an electroencephalograph (EEG).
Like other electrical devices, brain waves cycle at specific frequencies. The five different brain waves are alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta. They each have different frequencies, and these are measurable by an EEG.
Some research suggests that people with ADHD have too many theta waves, and too few beta waves. Neurofeedback claims to correct this difference by training people with ADHD to use their brains differently.
Neurofeedback practitioners begin by attaching electrodes to the head in order to measure brain activity. This produces an ongoing screen printout of brain waves that can be watched during the session.
Based on brain wave feedback, the neurofeedback provider will instruct the person to perform a specific task.
The process may involve sounds and other stimuli to encourage the brain to process information differently. There might be music or a tone, or sounds that suddenly stop or start.
This approach can interrupt, alter, or amplify brain activity based on feedback from the EEG.
Supporters of neurofeedback claim that this steady feedback can slowly alter brain waves. As brain waves change, so too do the symptoms of ADHD.
The use of neurofeedback is not limited to ADHD. It has been used to treat a range of psychological conditions, and it may help to improve general performance. Studies have suggested that it may help with depression.
What to Expect
A person who is going to participate in a neurofeedback session will start by answering a number of questions about their symptoms, treatment history, and lifestyle.
They will continue to provide information about their symptoms before each treatment session, as this will allow the provider to track improvements over time.
During each session, a provider will attach the patient to an EEG machine by placing electrodes on their heads. The number of electrodes varies depending on the practitioner and the session. The electrodes do not hurt, and they will not deliver an electrical current into the brain.
When the session begins, a real-time scan of the person’s brain waves will be visible on a screen. Based on this feedback, the provider will give instructions for adjusting the brain waves.
Activities might involve a video game, music, or listening to a tone.
As the session progresses, this input should change the brain waves. Across sessions, there may be more significant changes in the brain’s output. This should translate into changes in thought and behavior.
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