What is Neurofeedback?
Simply put, neurofeedback is a treatment intervention that helps train the brain to self regulate in healthier ways. When there is dysregulated brain wave functioning, people may experience lack of concentration/ focus, impulsivity, inflexibility, mood swings, anxiety, depression, defiance, sleep disturbances, and various other symptoms. Neurofeedback re-organizes and retrains dysregulated brain wave patterns for more optimal functioning in the brain. During neurofeedback training, a client’s brain wave activity is assessed via a computer-based program and immediate feedback is given to a client using visual or audio signals. The client learns how to regulate and improve brain functions, alleviating the symptoms of various neurological and mental health issues.
What type of problems does Neurofeedback treat?
Neurofeedback training has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of problems relating to brain dysregulation. These include disorders on the anxiety-depression spectrum, autism spectrum, attention deficits, behavior disorders, sleep disorders, migraines, PMS, addictions, emotional disturbances, and age-related cognitive disorders. Numerous scientific studies provide solid evidence of the effectiveness of neurofeedback training in the treatment of ADHD/ADD.
What exactly happens during Neurofeedback Training?
Brain Mapping: In the first session, a brain map is created using a QEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalogram). This measures the electrical signals that form brain wave patterns and maps the patterns to areas in the brain where they occur. A QEEG brain map can reveal dysregulated brain wave patterns and is used as a guide to assess how the brain is currently functioning. Based on this information, a neurofeedback training protocol is designed to correct imbalances and re-train brain wave functions, thereby producing optimal brain functioning.
This initial mapping session takes about one hour. It is non-invasive and painless. The client is fitted with a cap that contains sensors called electrodes. The sensors only measure brain activity coming from the scalp (similar to when a physician listens to a patient’s heart from the surface of their skin); no electrical current travels into the client’s brain. The electrodes are treated with a gel so that there is an accurate reading of brain waves. Brain activity is recorded with eyes open for 5 minutes and eyes closed for 5 minutes. The data received from the QEEG is used to create a map of the client’s brain patterns, and to compare it with a database of other healthy brain wave patterns of people in the same age group. This analysis helps target specific areas in the brain for specialized neurofeedback training for each client.
Neurofeedback Training: To start training, a few (usually 1-6) sensors are placed on the scalp to measure brain waves in real time. The client will simply relax while receiving audio or visual feedback from a screen. The client may watch a movie or video game, or at other times, the client may simply relax with their eyes closed as sophisticated software measures their brain waves and provides feedback. Based on this real time feedback, the client’s brain senses positive feedback or rewards when it forms healthy, desired patterns. The brain then retrains itself to create and maintain those healthier patterns. The “learning” takes no conscious effort on the client’s part. Sessions are generally scheduled for 1 hour, twice a week, with 30-40 sessions (15-20 weeks) for optimal results. The actual brain-training session is approximately 30 minutes long. Many clients begin to see results after 10-20 sessions, as the brain reorganizes, readjusts and healthier brain wave patterns emerge. Clients will often report an improvement of symptoms halfway through the neurofeedback training.
What are the benefits of Neurofeedback Training?
Neurofeedback training is a non-invasive, natural treatment. It does not require any medication, (but can still be used even if a client is using medication). Retraining brain waves can be an alternative to medication. Some clients are even able to reduce or eliminate usage of medication after the brain is functioning optimally due to neurofeedback training. Neurofeedback training does not have side effects! It has shown to be effective, safe and in the majority of cases, long lasting. The office of Paige Fishel, LCSW also provides a comfortable, relaxing, stress-free child/teen-friendly environment.
What are the risks of Neurofeedback Training?
Neurofeedback has limited risks. The majority of clients feel no effects after a session. In rare cases, some people may feel tiredness, dizziness or experience a mild headache shortly after a session. At times, a client may experience some tiredness after a session due to the brain being fatigued after a “workout.” This may be expected as you work out your brain in the beginning. In general, neurofeedback is a very safe, natural and non-invasive treatment option.
Can Neurofeedback Help Your ADD/ADHD Child?
Parenting a child with ADD/ADHD can be very challenging for the entire family. Many of the issues associated with ADD/ADHD such as inability to focus, fidgeting, outbursts and overall poor behavioral control, take their toll on the child and the entire family.
The most common form of treating ADD/ADHD is medication. However, medication is temporary and when it is stopped, symptoms return. The other common form of treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy and the burden is placed on the client to follow through with intentional change. Neurofeedback training is an alternative, non-invasive, natural, safe form of treatment, easy on the client, and it can provide longer lasting results.
The common denominator that characterizes all ADD/ADHD symptoms is brainwave dysregulation. Neurofeedback training provides a means to regulate this dysregulation. Neurofeedback directly trains the brain to create new patterns instead of the patterns that manifest in ADD/ADHD symptoms. By training new brain wave patterns, neurofeedback relieves both the symptoms and the causes of prior unhealthy brain wave patterns, gradually decreasing ADD/ADHD symptoms.
For those with ADD/ADHD, neurofeedback specifically strengthens attention networks in the brain. A client can see improvements in concentration, focus, and sustained attention without medication. In addition, neurofeedback training has been commonly found to be associated with decreased impulsiveness and hyperactivity, increased mood stability, improved sleep patterns, increased attention span, improved academic performance, increased memory, and increased IQ scores. These are all significant victories for a client with ADD/ADHD!
There are over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles published to date, documenting neurofeedback’s effectiveness in treating ADHD’s core symptoms. The following 2 bullet points are worth mentioning from research and scientific studies:
- “In October 2012, the company that maintains the American Academy of Pediatrics’ ranking of research support for child and adolescent non-pharmacological treatments, elevated neurofeedback to the highest level of evidence-based support for the treatment of ADHD.”
- “In a 2009 published meta-analysis, ‘neurofeedback treatment for ADHD can be considered “Efficacious and Specific” (Level 5) with a large effect size for inattention and impulsivity and a medium effective size for hyperactivity,’ the highest rating possible, based on the criteria jointly accepted by the International Society of Neurofeedback and Research and the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.”
In conclusion, neurofeedback training is an effective treatment option to treat ADD/ADHD with many research studies to support its effectiveness. If you are looking for an alternative treatment for your ADD/ADHD child, then do not hesitate to explore this safe, natural and effective treatment option for your child.
Pigott, E., De Biase, L., Bodenhamer-Davis, E. & Davis, R. (2013). The Evidence-Base for Neurofeedback as a Reimbursable Healthcare Service to Treat Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Steinberg, M. & Othmer, S. (2004). ADD: The 20-Hour Solution. Robert D. Reed Publishers.