Pediatric and Adult Neurofeedback now being offered. Please contact our office for more information.
MORE INFORMATION: ISNR Toolkit for neurofeedback as an evidence-based treatment for ADHD
Introduction to Neurofeedback
Our brains have the remarkable ability to reorganize and form new connections. The latest research has shown that the brain can be reshaped, particularly during childhood. This phenomenon of “neuroplasticity” allows the brain to compensate or adjust to new experiences, injuries, and even developmental issues. By supplying the brain with new information and sensory stimulation, we can change behaviors and alter how the brain reacts. For years, neuroscientists believed that genetic and maladaptive traits were hard-wired and permanent. However, the concept of neuroplasticity has gained wide acceptance within the scientific community as a basic skill of the brain.
Treatment for children with neurodevelopmental and psychological disorders has benefited from the knowledge that we can redesign the brain’s complex blueprint. Neurofeedback, also known as electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback or neurotherapy, is one such intervention. It is based on the simple principle that brain waves can be consciously controlled. The brain emits different types of waves and this system can fail due to low arousal, high arousal, or when neural communication spirals out of control. For instance, studies suggest that brains of ADHD patients generate insufficient beta waves, which are associated with alertness and critical reasoning, while excessive theta waves can result in daydreaming and drowsiness.
Neurofeedback for ADHD
The goal of neurofeedback is to teach strategies that diminish unfavorable brain patterns, while promoting self-regulation. This can range from increasing attention and concentration to reducing states of anxiety.
Neurofeedback for ADHDThe goal of neurofeedback is to teach strategies that diminish unfavorable brain patterns, while promoting self-regulation. This can range from increasing attention and concentration to reducing states of anxiety.
How does neurofeedback work?
The brain’s neuroplasticity permits it to adapt to environmental changes as a mechanism for survival. For several reasons, such as genetics and environment, the brain can get out of whack and function chaotically. Neurofeedback provides a way to train the brain to be more regulated by teaching participants how to control brain-wave frequencies, or electrical impulses. In the early 1960s, Joseph Kamiya, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, discovered that some people could control their brain-wave frequencies when provided with feedback. He found that these brain frequencies create an optimal environment for specific neuron networks, and thus optimal brain functioning. For example, when brain waves function at a frequency that is ideal for relaxation, the ability to focus and pay attention increases. During a neurofeedback session, sensors are placed on the scalp to detect electrical frequencies that the brain emits and translates these patterns onto a computer screen in the form of a graph. The data that are projected show the brain’s activity in the moment. Then, an audio or visual stimulus creates feedback to show if the brain is emitting frequencies at the desired range. This feedback can be as simple as an audible beep or as complex as maneuvering a character in a videogame. Thus, participants are able to see the effects of their thoughts. So what exactly would that look like? As one example, your child might have to fly a spacecraft on a videogame. The spacecraft would be guided by frequencies in the brain. Perhaps, the closer the brain gets to the desired frequencies, the faster the spacecraft flies. There are several neurofeedback training modules or “games” that can be selected to fit your child’s unique needs and interests. After consistent and repetitive practice, the brain essentially trains itself and eventually requires little effort to reach the desired frequencies of regulation.
Why neurofeedback training?
While neurofeedback may seem like some futuristic device from Star Trek, there is a wealth of research supporting its efficacy. The majority of experimental investigations have targeted Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although stimulant medication has shown consistent efficacy in decreasing ADHD symptoms, many parents are leery of turning to substance-based interventions as the first or sole treatment option. Neurofeedback is a promising noninvasive alternative or adjunctive treatment. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has classified neurofeedback as a Level 1 Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) for ADHD(1). This means that neurofeedback consistently shows superiority to placebo treatments and yields at least equivalent outcomes when compared to credible and well researched ADHD treatments. There is less research support for other disorders; however, emerging evidence shows promise for anxiety and sports performance enhancement.