Neurofeedback for ADD & ADHD: What You Need to Know

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Individuals with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may experience a wide range of symptoms. Common symptoms or “markers” for these conditions include distraction, impulsiveness, and the inability to focus. 

Current treatments present limitations in the long-term maintenance of symptoms and side effects. 

Neurofeedback therapy can help regulate brain functions for those with ADD and ADHD. It is considered an alternative form of therapy. This article will help you understand what you need to know about neurofeedback for ADD & ADHD.

What is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses an EEG to monitor and improve brain activity in those with neurological conditions, such as ADD and ADHD. Neurofeedback can also lead to overall improvements in mental health. 

Neurofeedback is a comfortable therapeutic option with little to no side effects. It is a safe alternative (or addition) to conventional treatments for ADD and ADHD. And it can be comfortably administered as an outpatient treatment. 

Neurofeedback uses a medical device called an EEG to monitor brain waves and provide data. An EEG detects abnormalities in your brain waves or in the electrical activity of your brain.

Neurofeedback therapy targets the subconscious mind.

An individual will often receive video or audio during therapy sessions while advanced software analyzes the brain activity in real-time. For children with ADHD or ADD, the therapy may involve a video game.

The individual will respond to the audio or video stimulation during the session. They are then rewarded in ways that help them learn how to self-regulate their brain. The EEG identifies abnormal brain wave patterns. 

By using rewards, these abnormal brain waves can be replaced with healthy brain activity. It also leads to new pathways in the brain. 

Traditional Interventions for ADD & ADHD

Most of the research on neurofeedback therapy comes from research on people with ADHD. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common disorders in children. It occurs in 3% and 7% of school-age children. Many of these cases last into adolescence and adulthood. 

Medication and behavioral therapy are the generally accepted traditional therapies for ADHD. However, these treatments have limitations. Medications often do not teach long-term coping skills. And some people may experience side effects that include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Potential cardiac risks
  • Personality changes and Irritability

Additionally, people with ADD and ADHD can develop a tolerance to the medications, which requires increased dosages and potentially more side effects. And some people with ADHD or ADD do not respond to current medications. 

Neurofeedback therapy may be an excellent alternative to current treatments, or it can be used with traditional therapies. 

Neurofeedback for ADD & ADHD

In persons with ADD and ADHD, the areas of the brain that control activity and focus have “irregular activity.” This irregular activity results in feeling worried, anxious, depressed, or unmotivated. These individuals may increase body movements to increase brain activity without thinking about it. Stimulant medications are used to increase brain activity without increasing body movement. 

But for some individuals with ADD and ADHD, stimulant medications may increase brain activity in other regions, leading to other problems. Feelings of aggression, impulsiveness, and anxiety are common side effects. 

Neurofeedback therapy addresses the underlying brain problems. It is a behavioral therapy that teaches self-regulation of brain activity. Neurofeedback has been used as a form of therapy since the 1930s. But it has only been used to treat hyperactivity since the late 1970s. 

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of well-controlled studies evaluating the effects of neurofeedback in treating ADD and ADHD. 

It has been concluded in multiple studies that neurofeedback, based on standard protocols, should be considered as a viable treatment alternative. In particular, three standard protocols have been proven beneficial. They are

  • Theta/Beta (TBR): Many children with ADHD have increased theta brain waves. They also demonstrate reduced beta wave brain activity. 

The theta waves are present when individuals are drowsy, daydreaming, or sleeping lightly. Beta brainwaves occur when individuals are active, concentrating, or solving problems. 

TBR neurofeedback therapy attempts to increase beta waves and decrease theta waves. Ultimately, it will provide a better balance with healthy levels of both at the proper time. 

  • Sensori-Motor Rhythm (SMR): SMR neurofeedback therapy occurs over the sensorimotor strip, located in the central region of the brain.

Studies have demonstrated the benefits of reducing hyperactivity with combined SMR/theta neurofeedback training. These benefits persist even after stopping stimulant medications. 

Patients – including children with ADHD – receiving this type of neurofeedback training are more attentive. They are also less hyperactive and impulsive. SMR therapy also usually improves sleep quality. 

  • Slow Cortical Potential (SCP): SCP is based on the regulation of cortical activities. Changes in SCPs can decrease or increase the threshold of excitement for neurons in the brain. Therefore, treating ADHD with SCP aims to regulate these changes for a less dramatic effect.  

Is Neurofeedback a Successful Treatment Alternative for ADD & ADHD?

The short answer is that neurofeedback can be highly beneficial for many individuals and children with attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It allows the individual to work directly on the underlying problems with brain activity. 

Neurofeedback can help the brain become more calm, focused, and less impulsive. ADD and ADHD are marked by too-fast and too-slow brain wave patterns. Neurofeedback therapy allows the individual to take control of brain performance. 

Some health professionals who incorporate neurofeedback therapy report that over 85% of clients with ADD or ADHD learn to increase focus, reduce impulsivity, and manage behavior. 

If you are considering neurofeedback for ADD or ADHD, speak with the medical professionals at Memor Health to see if the therapy would be compatible with your treatment needs.

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