Neurofeedback and ADHD

For those who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD or who have a child diagnosed with ADHD, you are familiar with the unpleasant symptoms that stem from the disorder. ADD and ADHD affect an individual's prefrontal cortex, located in the front of the brain. If you recall a previous blog entry on The Adolescent Brain, the prefrontal cortex is one of the last areas of the brain to develop. Within the prefrontal cortex, it affects one’s ability to perform executive functions. These functions primarily include the ability to plan and/or the ability to make decisions. This makes tasks asked of individuals in both work and school environments more challenging than for those who do not have a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. For students, planning ahead to complete a research project or trying to study in advance for a test can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Similarly for adults, trying to make a work deadline or attempting to finish a project can be overwhelming and feel nearly impossible. Individuals who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD often experience difficulties when tasks are too boring or too demanding. As such, these individuals may have difficulty working when a task feels mundane or working when under pressure. There are many other symptoms associated with ADD and ADHD, such as inattention or hyperactive-impulsive behavior, that an individual may experience. However, let’s move to look at possible treatment options for individuals affected by this disorder.

For those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, there are lots of treatment options. Should you seek a therapist? Should you seek a psychiatrist? Should you try neurofeedback? This is a personal decision and should be decided on an individual basis. However, let’s take the time to examine how neurofeedback can help alleviate problematic symptoms and help you achieve optimal brain health.

According to several studies as cited by Dr. Clare Albright (2010), approximately 80% of individuals’ problematic symptoms are alleviated within 30-40 neurofeedback sessions. That may seem like a long time, but there is a benefit: the symptoms do not come back. Unlike other treatment alternatives, neurofeedback does not mask the symptoms but works to minimize and possibly eliminate the symptoms, permanently. How does it do this? Neurofeedback looks to treat the problems that are responsible for the symptoms-- it targets the source itself. Medication may help with symptoms, but unlike with neurofeedback, once an individual stops taking medications the symptoms are likely to reappear. If you decide that medication is an option for you or your loved one, know that it can be taken in conjunction with neurofeedback. However, before making any decisions regarding medication, please consult with your psychiatrist or doctor.

Luckily, neurofeedback treatment for ADHD is considered a “Level 1- Best Support” by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children and adolescents. Out of 5 levels, this is the most empirically supported treatment level an intervention could acquire. As such, this is a wonderful empirically-based treatment option for you or your loved ones.

If you are interested in the services that neurofeedback has to offer, please feel free to contact us to learn more about whether neurofeedback is a good fit for you.

 

References:

Albright, C. (2010). Neurofeedback: Transforming your life with brain biofeedback. Trenton, MO:Beckworth Publications.

The Adolescent Brain

Adolescence is a time of change for everyone. Adolescents are experiencing biological changes (think puberty), emotional changes (such as dealing with hormones), and often times, multiple environmental changes (transitioning schools and/or changes in friendships). During this period, adolescents are trying to further develop their sense of self. They are seeking autonomy from parents, discovering their interests, and possibly planning their futures.

Meanwhile, parents who have adolescent children are going through their own changes. Parents may be dealing with their own emotional changes and environmental changes with their adolescent child. Parents may need to alter their parenting styles to accommodate their child’s growing independence, parents may suddenly have to manage their own stress and how they react to their child’s changes, and/or parents may be finding a balance to be supportive and encouraging of their child (i.e. helping their child do his/her homework) while also letting a child experience consequences (i.e. failing a test because the child did not study).

Just as adolescents are going through many changes, parents are too.

In the following TED talk, cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jane Blakemore discusses the biological changes that occur during the process of adolescence in the human brain. She explains why there can be a disconnect between parents and their children during this critical developmental period, but more importantly, she discusses how important it is developmentally for children to experience these biological changes at this particular time.

For adolescents, remember, this period is only temporary. At times it may be uncomfortable, but the process is allowing your brain to develop new skills that will help you to function as an adult.

For parents, remember, this period is only temporary. At times it may be frustrating, but the process is allowing your child to develop new skills that will help him or her function as an adult.

During this period adolescents may experience problematic symptoms such as impulsivity, hormone imbalances, or symptoms associated with depression or anxiety. If you are interested in how neurofeedback may help alleviate these symptoms, contact a neurofeedback technician to see if neurofeedback is right for you.

Beta Wave Basics, Part 2

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Welcome back! Last weeks blog entry, Beta Wave Basics, Part 1 focused on the basics of beta waves, including what they are, how they are reflected in an EEG, and how knowing about them may be relevant to your life. This week, the conversation will continue as we discuss the different types of beta wave frequencies, potential symptoms associated with these frequencies, and how neurofeedback may be a great option to relieve symptoms and achieve optimal brain health.

Because beta waves have a wide range in frequency (from approximately 14 hertz to 30 hertz), individuals may experience different states of mind during different frequencies. For example, an individual who has a lower beta wave frequency may experience alertness, clear thinking, and/or creative thinking. The lower frequencies within beta waves are close to alpha waves (approximately 8 hertz to 13.9 hertz). Remember, individuals whose brain activity reflects alpha waves are in states of deep relaxation. Therefore, the closer an individual’s brain activity is at a frequency around 13.9 hertz, the more alert and clear his or her thinking will be.

On the other end of the spectrum, an individual who has a higher beta wave frequency may experience restlessness, anxiety, stress, and/or panic. The higher the frequency, the more your brain is working to rapidly send signals to other parts of the body. It takes a lot of energy from the brain to maintain these higher brain wave frequencies because the brain is doing more than it would in a relaxed state. As a result, it can negatively affect an individual’s health, as seen in the potential symptoms previously listed. Furthermore, a brain that is consistently in a high frequency state creates an imbalance in the system as the brain may be overexerting itself. This, too, can create issues in an individual’s physical and/or emotional health. The more stress the brain is under, or the longer it maintains a high frequency, the more it releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Recent studies on cortisol have revealed that chronic stress and high cortisol levels can have multiple negative effects on the brain.

As previously mentioned, an individual’s type of activity level or emotional state may affect an individual’s brain frequency, which can then lead to multiple symptoms. An individual whose brain activity is in a state of low frequency within beta waves may experience deficiencies in attention, issues with sleep (including difficulty falling or maintaining sleep), chronic pain, or may experience various types of depression. An individual whose brain activity is in a state of high frequency within beta waves may experience issues in sleep (including nightmares), aggression or anger, anxiety, or impulsivity. An individual who experiences a combination of both low and high frequencies throughout the day may have symptoms associated with depression, ADHD, and anxiety.

It may help to think about beta waves and its effects on the system in terms of drinking coffee. Think about what happens when you first wake up in the morning. You may be unable to focus, you may be feeling down, or you may be experiencing pain, just like it you were in a lower beta state. You decide that in order to become more alert you will have your morning coffee. You begin to have more energy and are now able to concentrate on tasks, such as if you were in an average beta state. However, if you have too much coffee, or your beta frequency is too high, your thoughts may become disorganized and you may have difficulty staying alert; in fact, you may experience symptoms associated with panic, such as a rapid heartbeat. Beta waves act like coffee -- it’s important to be at an optimal level in order to function, but too much or too little can result in negative effects on the body and mind.

Neurofeedback helps relieve individuals of their symptoms via training the brain to self-regulate. When an individual is engaged in neurofeedback, whether watching a movie or playing a game, the electrodes on the individual’s scalp are monitoring beta waves. The treatment utilizes a reward system: when the brainwave frequency is in a relaxed state, it is rewarded via the screen appearing “normal”. When the brain wave frequency moves out of its window of tolerance (or peaceful state), the screen will alter forcing the brain to modify its patterns in order to get to that reward state, or to the brain’s optimal level. The more neurofeedback sessions an individual has, the longer the brain stays in an optimal state, and therefore, the brain learns how to self-regulate its system. It is perfectly normal for the brain to continue to experience inhibition as the beta wave frequencies will naturally alter depending on an individual’s activity and emotional state.

Through neurofeedback an individual can reduce problematic symptoms associated with low or high frequency beta waves and achieve optimal brain health.

Check out our website for more information on neurofeedback and its therapeutic applications. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment or would like to consult with a neurofeedback technician, feel free to contact us. Tune back next week to read about how the adolescent brain differs from the adult brain.