Neurofeedback, also known as electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback and neurotherapy, is an ADHD treatment based on the discovery that many people with ADHD have low levels of arousal in frontal brain areas, with an excess of theta waves and a deficit of beta waves.
What is Neurofeedback and how does it work?
The human brain produces electrical activity in the form of waves that can be detected with an electroencephalograph (EEG). Scientists can identify particular brain wave patterns captured by the equipment by analyzing the results of an EEG measurement. When we are awake, our brain waves are divided into three categories: alpha (medium), beta (rapid), and theta (slow). When a person is relaxed and not actively thinking or interacting with their surroundings, alpha waves are visible. When a person is interacting with the environment, concentrating, thinking, or solving issues, beta waves are present. Theta waves are common during drowsiness, daydreaming, or light sleep, but they can also appear during restless, agitated overactivity. (During profound sleep, a fourth type of brain wave termed delta is visible.)
Neurofeedback, also known as electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback and neurotherapy, is an ADHD treatment based on the discovery that many people with ADHD have low levels of arousal in frontal brain areas, with an excess of theta waves and a shortage of beta waves. Supporters of this treatment believe that by training the brain to increase arousal levels (increase beta waves and decrease theta waves), ADHD symptoms can be reduced. Electrodes are placed on a person's head to measure brain activity during neurofeedback treatment. The patient receives feedback in the form of cues that can range from as simple as an audio beep to as complicated as a video game. When the brainwaves reach the desired frequency, the patient may be alerted by a beep, or the gaming character may move in the appropriate direction. Proponents claim that once the patient learns how to enhance these arousal levels, their focus will improve and their hyperactive/impulsive behavior would decrease.
The concept of neurofeedback as an ADHD treatment is based on research that shows that many people with ADHD have higher slow-wave (particularly theta) power in their EEG than people without ADHD, but less beta power.
Neurofeedback as a Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
There have been six research published that look at the effectiveness of neurofeedback as an ADHD treatment (See link below). Monastra stated that multiple research have demonstrated advantages from neurofeedback in ADHD over the past 25 years in a review of the published literature. Monastra thinks that neurofeedback is "probably efficacious" for ADHD based on the American Psychological Association's (APA) five-level evidence grading system (see Table 1). Others, such as the Professional Advisory Board (PAB) of CHADD, believe that "potentially efficacious" better reflects the current state of published science.
More research is required.
Neurofeedback is a treatment that continues to pique the curiosity and attention of both researchers and consumers. While there is enough evidence to encourage further research as a potential treatment for ADHD symptoms, present research does not support definitive claims about its efficacy. Parents and others should continue to take caution when contemplating neurofeedback as a treatment for themselves or their children, based on the existing data and the costs involved.