Neurofeedback for adhd

Is Neurofeedback For ADHD Really Effective?

Brainwave Entrainment Neurofeedback

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health conditions that often begin in childhood and go all the way into a person’s adulthood.

There are therapies and medications that are designed to help increase focus, concentration, and attention as well as reduce hyperactivity.

There is also neurofeedback that has been designed for treating people with ADHD.

We look at the neurofeedback treatment for ADHD, what is involved, how effective it really is, and what researchers say about it.

Understanding The ADHD Condition Better

Based on a national parent study in 2016 conducted in the United States, the number of children ever to be diagnosed with ADHD came to about 6.1 million which is about 9.4% of the population (1).

Children aged 2 years to 5 years were about 388,000. Those between the age of 6 to 11 years were 4 million and those in the 12years to 17years age bracket were 3 million.

The study also revealed that boys have a higher chance of being diagnosed with ADHD at 12.9% than the girls at 5.6%.

The common symptoms associated with this disorder include forgetfulness, impulsivity, having a hard time focusing daydreaming, finding it hard to organize activities, making mistakes, and fidgeting.

It is also believed that 6 out of 10 children who are diagnosed with ADHD have another mental, behavioral or emotional disorder such as anxiety, depression, Tourette syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and conduct or behavior problems.

The 2 popular interventions for ADHD are medication and behavioral treatment.

However, most people tend to shy away from medication due to the side effects associated with it (2)(3).

Neurofeedback is another form of treatment that is proving to be effective in dealing with ADHD. It involves understanding brain waves in the brain and altering them through training to make them similar to those of a healthy person.

How Neurofeedback Deals With ADHD

Neurofeedback involves observing the activity of the brain of the person with a disorder and understanding how their brain activity is like.

Afterward, the technician creates a specific brain training plan that will help improve the activity so that the brain functions much better.

Neurofeedback is also referred to as EEG (Electroencephalogram) biofeedback.

It is a treatment that focuses on brain waves. Brain waves are the electrical impulses produced when your brain cells send signals to each other.

Electrical activity creates brain wave patterns that affect our emotions and behavior among other aspects.

There are mainly 5 types of waves that indicate different states of mind. These waves are alpha waves, beta waves, theta waves, gamma waves, and delta waves (4).

To understand more about brain waves and how they work, we encourage you to read our beginner guides on neurofeedback and brainwave entrainment.

Ideally, neurofeedback compares the brain wave of a person who has a disorder to the brain waves of a healthy person and then trains the brain of the person with the disorder to maintain the brain activity like that of the healthy person.

In the case of ADHD, it has been found that about 90% of the people with ADHD have a higher theta-beta ratio which brings about a pattern that is linked to uneasiness and lost focus (5).

The neurofeedback training plan for ADHD involves working towards increasing the beta wave activity and reducing the theta wave activity.

The main aim of the training is to reduce hyperactivity present in ADHD patients and increase their levels of concentration.

When you go for treatment, you will have tiny metal electrodes placed on your head to help measure and read your brain wave activity.

The electrodes are completely harmless and they won’t add or take away any form of electric energy in your brain. They are only used to get better readings of your brain activity (6)(7).

The electrodes are connected to a screen through wires so that the readings of your brain activity are seen on the screen.

You will then be asked to perform different activities which include playing video games and music.

By doing these activities, you get to train your brain to concentrate better, naturally.

The activities of your brain are connected to these activities such that when you shift towards brain wave patterns that indicate higher focus and concentration, you win in the game and when you shift into negative brain wave patterns, you lose.

As you play, your brain is trained to maintain better and more positive brain wave patterns with relative ease, which in turn improves your health condition.

What Researchers Say About The Effectiveness of Neurofeedback For ADHD

The research studies that have been done on neurofeedback have brought mixed results, showing effectiveness in some cases and lack of it in other cases.

The first study in the potential of neurofeedback for ADHD involved 18 participants of ages between 5 years and 15 years.

These participants had not taken any psychotherapy or medication. The researchers took 9 of them, randomly chosen, and they were given neurofeedback training while the others acted as the control group (8).

The study found that the participants who had the neurofeedback training had improved in attention (based on ratings of their parents) and IQ.

However, this study has weaknesses such as not providing control for the attention training benefits, not providing EEG data recordings before the training and after, and parents’ expectations that their children had to improve since they had received a form of treatment.

And this makes it hard to confirm whether the improvements were due to the neurofeedback training or other possible reasons.

Other studies have been done after that, and some have shown improvements while others did not bring the same positive results (9)(10)(11)(12)(13)(14).

A placebo based study on neurofeedback that involved giving real neurofeedback training to some participants while making others think they also got the same real training, also concluded that both groups showed the same improvements (15).

This means that there is a possibility that the improvements were due to placebo.

While many neurofeedback training patients have reported huge improvements in attention and impulsivity and moderate improvements in hyperactivity, authors have asked that more research be done on this intervention (16).

Considering that the training has its own side effects such as mental exhaustion, and light sensitivity, dizziness and nausea for people who have brain trauma, not to mention that it may not work for everyone, there is need for developmental research as well as regulation of the treatment when used as a therapy.

It is also necessary to establish standards that are internationally accepted that focus on education and implementation of neurofeedback as well as qualifications for trainers and practitioners (17)(18).

Essentially, neurofeedback shows a lot of potential when it comes to treating ADHD, among other health conditions (19).

However, the mixed results from the research studies and the fact that it could be an expensive intervention for some people, it is something that needs thought and consideration before getting into it.

But with all that said, some experts recommend working with neurofeedback if you or your child experience strong negative effects with medication.

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10 thoughts on “Is Neurofeedback For ADHD Really Effective?

  1. This is an interesting treatment for people with ADHD. Your post is quite informative and backed up by research which makes it genuine and reliable. Thanks for taking the time to do your research and create a thorough content on the topic. As a person who works in a clinic, I am interested in learning more about neurofeedback and its abilities and I think this website is going to be a good resource for me.

    Marita

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there Marita, 

      Thanks for dropping by and for the encouraging words.

      We are glad to hear that you find our posts on neurofeedback useful.

      We encourage you to stop by often as we are always updating and adding new posts in all our categories.

      We also wish you the best with your studies on Neurofeedback.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  2. So many things have been thrown in the ADHD basket for so long now.  It is encouraging to see that there is some serious study of how to help kids and adults live a better life and have a better support system for their educational years.  There was always the medical treatment, and that is better than nothing.  However, knowing more about a subject can also help parents know how to help their children.  So often, when I read about ADHD and the problems they have with learning, it reminds me of my personal problems with learning.  Being able to have help and see progress is encouraging.  

    This is an ongoing problem for kids, and I think always has been.  While it is important to know what is happening with the ADHD research, helping a student to cope without medication is a starting spot.  Helping with finding study methods is a good base to allow the student to figure out what works for him.  Having to put a bit more into the project may be a temporary inconvenience, but the result is equipping the student to look for the little things that make learning easier for them.  They don’t have to have a medication to be able to get the work done.  

    All that being said, medication also often has its place in the school day for kids who have ADHD issues.  Adults as well.  Thanks for your article.  Learning about this particular issue is an ongoing study for me.  Thank you for sharing.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there Sami, 

      Thanks for dropping by and for sharing your thoughts on the topic.

      We really appreciate your opinion. 🙂

      We wish you the best.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  3. The topic is interesting, and informative regarding ADHD treatments. As an adult with ADD (diagnosed prior to the merging of ADD and ADHD), I’m always interested in hearing what’s new on the medical front for assessing and treatments of ADD/ADHD.

    I tried the medicinal route, but the effects were intolerable. After living with ADD, I’ve learned how to cope with certain aspects, using mnemonics, and creating rituals to remember things. For example, when remembering which light switch (in a double panel) turns on light or garbage disposal. If the light was on left, I would recall that left and light started with the same letter. If the light was on right, there is a rhyming, of ‘light’ and ‘right’.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there Rudy, 

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your experiences.

      We really appreciate you sharing the techniques you use to manage certain aspects of the condition. 🙂

      Your experiences will definitely help others who are struggling with the same.

      All the best.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  4. Hello there, thanks a lot for sharing this mind blowing piece of information here with us. I must say i really did enjoyed going through your article as it contains valuable information’s one needs to be aware of in order to deal with ADHD and how neurofeedback contributes to the process as well, great post.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there Phil, 

      Thanks for stopping by and for the encouraging words. 🙂

      We wish you the best.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

  5. Hello over there, a big thanks to you sharing this informational and educating article on neurofeedback for ADHD. 

    ADHD is one condition that I so Much dislike, it symptoms are not something one would even like to experience. Anyways I am so delighted to know that neurofeedback help in the management of ADHD. I believe this is really going to be useful to many our there.

    1. Improve Your Brain Power Team says:

      Hallo there, 

      Thanks for dropping by and for sharing your thoughts.

      We appreciate your contribution. 

      All the best.

      Cheers, 

      The IYBP Team

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