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Can Neurofeedback Help ADHD?
If you’re looking for a natural therapy for your ADHD, you may have come across the treatment known as neurofeedback. Can neurofeedback help ADHD? Let’s take a look at what exactly neurofeedback is and if it’s worth giving it a shot.
While I haven’t tried neurofeedback myself, I have used other non-traditional therapies over the years such as hypnotherapy and EMDR. Because of the positive results I’ve seen in both, I have an open mind about neurofeedback. My advice? If you do your research and feel like it could only help and not hurt, I say it’s worth a shot.
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback, is a form of brain training that helps the mind operate more efficiently. Using EEG (electroencephalogram) technology, the user receives feedback on her own brain performance, then the brain is rewarded as its function improves. This gradual treatment based on electrical brain activity can be used for a variety of conditions, including anxiety and depression. It’s also used in patients with autism, seizures, headaches and migraines, and even PMS.
“Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain dysregulation,” explains EEG Info. “In the case of organic brain disorders, it can only be a matter of getting the brain to function better rather than of curing the condition. When it comes to problems of dysregulation, we would say that there is not a disease to be cured. Where dysregulation is the problem, self-regulation may very well be the remedy.”
While several studies back the effectiveness of neurofeedback for ADHD, CHADD maintains that further research is needed. ADDitude magazine’s medical panel considers the technology as “a promising therapy for ADHD” as a complement to therapy and/or medication.
For a more in-depth look at the research behind neurofeedback for ADHD, CHADD includes a detailed breakdown of each of the studies done so far, which include:
- Monastra, VJ., Monastra, DM., George, S., (2002). The effects of stimulant therapy, EEG biofeedback, and parenting style on the primary symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback
- Hirshberg, LM., Chiu, S., Frazier, JA., (2005). Emerging brain-based interventions for children and adolescents: overview and clinical perspective. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America
- Loo, SK., Barkley, RA., (2005). Clinical utility of EEG in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Applied Neuropsychology
- Carmody, D., Radvanski, DC., Wadhwani, S., Sabo, JJ., Vergara, L., (2001). EEG biofeedback training and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in an elementary school setting. Journal of Neurotherapy
- Foks, M. (2005). Neurofeedback training as an educational intervention in a school setting: How the regulation of arousal states can lead to improved attention and behavior in children with special needs. Educational and Child Psychology
Does Insurance Cover Neurofeedback?
While neurofeedback is covered by some insurance companies, your mileage may vary. Explains Dr. Ronald Rosenthal of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback:
“In an ideal world, we would be able to generate a long list of insurance companies and managed care organizations that have consistently paid for biofeedback services. However, the world we live in is far from ideal and insurance reimbursement for biofeedback continues to be inconsistent and unpredictable.”
How Many Neurofeedback Sessions Are Needed for ADHD?
For those who go the traditional route with in-person sessions, the cost can reach thousands of dollars. According to ADDitude, 20 to 40 sessions are typically required to see results from neurofeedback.
“Over time, neurofeedback aims to help patients increase the ratio of high-frequency brain waves, leading to stronger attention and self-control,” explains doctors Davis Rabiner and Ed Hamlin of the magazine’s ADHD Medical Review Panel. “Many ADHD brains generate an abundance of low-frequency delta or theta brain waves, and a shortage of high-frequency beta brain waves.”
Neurofeedback Home Kits
Those interested in neurofeedback but are concerned about the cost may be curious about home kits for neurofeedback. Companies such as Excellent Brain provide these at-home neurofeedback kits (aff), which hook up to your computer. The user plays a series of games, then uses real-time feedback to improve concentration and attention.
Regularly priced at $799, the Excellent Brain kit provides 6 months of cloud-based brain training. Thirty 20-minute sessions are required for the full benefit, during which time users wear a headset and complete various brain exercises. Learn more about doing neurofeedback at home for ADHD.
More Neurofeedback Research
Here are a few of the top studies that tout the effectiveness of neurofeedback:
- Effects of Smart-Tablet-Based Neurofeedback Training on Cognitive Function in Children with Attention Problems – “Scores on several neuropsychological tests and parent behavior rating scales showed significant improvement in the training group but not in the controls. The improvements remained through the follow-up assessment. This study suggests that the smart-tablet-based neurofeedback training program might improve cognitive function in children with attention problems.”
- Closed-loop brain training: the science of neurofeedback – “Neurofeedback provides the possibility of endogenously manipulating brain activity as an independent variable, making it a powerful neuroscientific tool.”
- Neurofeedback versus psychostimulants in the treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review – “This review concludes that the present role of NF in treating children diagnosed with ADHD should be considered as complementary in a multimodal treatment approach, individualized to the needs of the child, and may be considered a viable alternative to stimulants for a specific group of patients.”
- A Brain-Computer Interface Based Attention Training Program for Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – “Following intervention, both parent-rated inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms on the ADHD Rating Scale showed significant improvement.”
- Comparison of Medical and Consumer Wireless EEG Systems for Use in Clinical Trials –
- A comparative study on the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying effects of methylphenidate and neurofeedback on inhibitory control in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – “EEG data can be successfully collected from all four systems tested. Although there was slightly more time required for application, medical systems offer clear advantages in data quality, reliability, and depth of analysis over the consumer systems.”