Neurofeedback is a non-invasive learning strategy that works to improve the brains ability to produce certain brainwaves without the need for medication. You can think of it as “exercise for the brain”. By creating awareness about your own brainwave characteristics, you can learn to change them. Neurofeedback instruments show the kind of waves a person is producing, making it possible for the individual to learn to change in ways that improve attention and facilitate learning. It is essentially self-regulation training ideally suited to those with ADHD, ADD and specific learning disabilities.
What are brainwaves?
Brainwaves are the electrical wave patterns found in every person’s brain. Through EEG technology we can determine the strength and frequency of brainwave activity as it flows through the different areas of the brain.
- Beta is the fastest brainwave and is produced during focused activities and is essential for attentiveness and learning.
- Alpha is a slightly slower brainwave and is associated with a relaxed yet alert state of mind.
- Theta is an even slower brainwave and is associated with dreaminess, relaxation and sleep.
Research indicates that children with ADHD are less able to produce Beta activity and experience excessive slow wave activity. In fact, when challenged with academic tasks, such children show greater increases in Theta activity and a decrease in Beta readings. In order for your brain to concentrate and learn, your brain needs to emit a high level of Beta waves, which the ADHD child is unable to do. No wonder children with ADHD have trouble concentrating!
Other children become increasingly anxious in exam situations, generating too much Beta activity which also interferes with the learning and retrieval process, creating increased levels of anxiety.
Assessment & Treatment
The assessment procedure begins when a teacher / parent becomes concerned about a child’s ability to concentrate and learn.
A thorough evaluation must be carried out in order to determine whether the clinical picture is consistent with ADHD. A useful tool for Neurofeedback practitioners is the involvement of a QEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram – computerized EEG evaluation). If the pattern of ADHD brainwave activity is detected, and fits in with the clinical picture, Neurofeedback training can commence.
Through Neurofeedback training it is possible to increase Beta and decrease Theta, allowing for more focused learning in most children.
How does one “train your brain”?
Much like a clinical EEG sensors / electrodes are placed on the child’s scalp and fed through an amplifier into a computer programme. The child then proceeds to play computer games or watch a movie, the only difference is that the child must use their own brainwaves to control the game / show. When the child is focused in the correct way i.e. producing the perfect amount of Beta and Theta brainwave activity, the game / movie will play, if not, the screen will fade and the brain will know to readjust.
The treatment is non-invasive and does not involve any medication. Individuals learn to voluntarily control their brainwave activity through operant conditioning.
Is this a cure for ADHD?
Neurofeedback never claims to “cure” any diagnosis. The goals of Neurofeedback are to teach the child to become increasingly self-aware and to train the brain to be more flexible. The goal of Neurofeedback training is not to change the child, but to make the child more self-aware and provide tools for the brain to re-organise itself and quickly shift into a more focused mode when required.
It is important to remember that as humans we operate within a system and, as with more traditional therapies, additional support and guidance will be needed to treat the person as a whole. With Neurofeedback the child can still be the person they are, but with increased focus and awareness and an ability to “change gears” without relying on medication, thereby learning valuable and lasting skills.
What are the results?
• Finishing tasks
• Listening better
• Less impulsivity
• Greater motivation and focus • Higher self-esteem