Therapists are using neurofeedback to treat ADHD, PTSD and other conditions

In the article “Therapists are using neurofeedback to treat ADHD, PTSD and other conditions,” Arlene Karidis  describes the life of Chris Gardner and how he got brain surgery to remove a tumor. However, this operation restricted the 58-year-old’s mobility and cognition until he tried a form of biofeedback, called neurofeedback, that is a brain exercise based on brain waves and immediate feedback on how the brain is functioning. For example, movies, video games, computers and other equipment can be used to monitor ones brave waves in a sense that when a number of one’s brain waves are displayed to be too fast or too slow, the movie is automatically paused in order to gain control of a steady number of brain waves once again and to test why this erratic change happened in the first place.

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Although there are other skeptics, such as Silver Spring psychologist Robb Mapou, who think there are other therapeutic ways to affect an individual’s outcome, many scientists and researchers believe that this stop-and-start feedback decreases the number of infrequent brain waves and yields them to a more-normal number which can improve an individual’s ability to focus and relax. Karidis affirms that “better focus and relaxation can seemingly help improve or eliminate such conditions as migraines and anxiety,” which could all an all improve one’s quality of life.

However, a common condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), has been on the minds of many. Here, an individual’s attention, focus, and organization skills are compromised from the time they developed this disorder in their childhood all the way through adulthood. A recent trial published in March in the Journal of Pediatrics states that “those who received neurofeedback had improvements in attention and impulse control, while those who did not receive the therapy did not.” Those who partake in neurofeedback may get better results and can even grow out of this disorder. In detail, according to Michael Sitar, a Bethesda psychologist certified in neurofeedback, “people with focus problems can switch tasks easier. Kids who repeat themselves and who are emotionally labile become calmer and don’t repeat as much and nonverbal people become verbal.”

Furthermore, Karidis cites Deborah Stokes, an Alexandria psychologist, who compared neurofeedback to riding a bike: “It’s non-conscious learning, based on the feedback, that, with repetition, can be long-lasting.” For example, there are many cases where this occurs such as...

  • Chris Gardener: he was projected to have a two-to-three-year recovery period, but by his ninth neurofeedback session, he was driving, taking power walks and working from home. He went from not feeling anything to being able to do almost everything he could do before.  Karidis elucidates upon Gardner’s case where he sat in a chair while tiny, pulsed signals were sent to his brain that would enable the brain to revive its communication channels (which can become impaired after a brain injury).

  • Thomas Nicklin: a teenager who was in boarding school, did 45 neurofeedback sessions over three months last year (Karidis).“Over time, Thomas went from three or four blinding migraines a week, vomiting and daily pain, to no symptoms,” said his mother, Pat Nicklin, because of the neurofeedback.

  • Mary Lee Esty, a Bethesda clinical social worker: who is starting up a study which would help treat veterans with PTSD. She has used neurofeedback to treat more than 2,500 people with the help from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (which gives participants in her program post-treatment evaluations).

  • Rex Cannon, past president of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, based in McLean, Va.: discovered that after neurofeedback treatments a significant reduction in seizures had occurred in a meta-analysis of 10 studies on epilepsy patients.

These are just a few examples of patients and experts that have experienced and seen the promising results of Neurofeedback. But if “about 1,850 professionals have been certified through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance” (Karidis) than at least 1,850 patients can be helped with sessions two or three times a week, for a total of 10 to 40 in 1 to 4 months.

Do most people become totally normal? We don’t necessarily know. We also know that normal is vague and vastly different from one person to the next. But they can see an improvement on their symptoms by taking part in neurofeedback treatments.

Neurofeedback is able to help children, teenagers, and adults who have symptoms of ADHD, migraines, sleep issues and more. If your symptoms have not improved enough to meet your goals, your brain may need some training. Neurofeedback can train your brain to regulate, stabilize and focus itself so you're able to function at your optimal level, concentrate better on your tasks and follow directions that are given to you.

Contact us for more information on how Neurofeedback can help you and your family find the focus you need to function at your best.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD


Reference

Karidis, Arlene. “Therapists are using neurofeedback to treat ADHD, PTSD and other conditions.” The Washington Post. Health and Science. Web. 19 Jan. 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/therapists-are-using-neurofeedback-to-treat-adhd-ptsd-and-other-conditions/2015/01/16/b38e6cee-5ec3-11e4-91f7-5d89b5e8c251_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bf4b688f61b7

Have You Ever Been So Tired You Can't Sleep?

Truck driver Joe Diemand (76) feels that way all the time. Working long and late hours like Joe or working the night shift have even been called carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends at least 7 hours of sleep a night and reports show that more than 80 million Americans are sleep deprived. Just look at the spike in fatal car accidents and heart attacks (increases 24%) the Monday after day light saving time!

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We have an internal molecular clock that is set to mirror and stay in sync with the sun. Because of technology and brain imaging, these three Nobel Prize (2017) winning scientists discovered this so called circadian cycle and it is now known that disruption to this cycle can lead to things like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. 

Disruption to this sleep cycle is due to our eyes and their exposure to certain light at certain times. I can't help but feel guilty as I stare at my computer screen late at night while reading about the negative affects of reawakening my wake cycle through exposure to this type of light. According to the most recent National Geographic, Michael Finkel states light at night inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our daily biological rhythms.

Insomnia is the main reason 4% U.S. adults take sleeping pills each month. But there is research to show that people who generally take longer to fall asleep, wake up for prolonged periods during the night, or both do not need medicine. Neurofeedback has been shown to improve sleep . 

The engine of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, is the first to begin to deteriorate when we do not get enough sleep. Finkel reminds us that this is the home for our decision-making power and problem solving abilities. It's no wonder why we are cranky when we are tired. Chiara Cirelli (a neuroscientist at the Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness) tells us, “Every cognitive function to some extent seems to be affected by sleep loss.” So, what better way to improve symptoms of sleepiness than by training your brain with Nuerofeedback which directly  addresses symptoms for each individual client by focusing on certain parts of the brain that need strengthening. Using certain electrode site placement on the head and frequency levels, people report improvements in falling asleep, staying asleep and quality of sleep after the recommended 20 sessions of Neurofeedback.  These sessions in turn improve a healthy lifestyle as lack of sleep can induce overproduction of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and can lead to obesity. Even those who get 6 or less hours of sleep per night are at higher risk for depression, psychosis, and stroke. Neurofeedback has not only been reported to help with sleeplessness but also these exact diagnoses. 

A common symptom of ADHD is daytime sleepiness (Timimi & Leo, 2009). This symptom served as a predictor for homework problems and academic impairment in adolescents with ADHD (Langberg, Dvorsky, Marshall, & Evans, 2013). Those with Autism have also having difficulty falling asleep and experience disturbed sleep once they do. ASD has also been linked to anxiety and depression. Neurofeedback addresses any dysregulated state of the brain and research has shown it improves many symptoms of these disorders. 

In this case, if you snooze, you don't lose! Biofeedback is now a "Level 1 - Best Support" for Attention and Hyperactivity behaviors or ADD/ADHD interventions based on The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Other treatments such as Behavioral Therapy and medications are considered "Level 1- Best Support" treatments as well. Based on the dysregulation model, neurofeedback addresses common symptoms of ADHD like inattentiveness and impulsiveness by "brain training" and helping to regulate brain activity. Not only can neurofeedback address behavioral, academic and emotional symptoms, it can help regulate our sleep to allow for the full potential of " playtime of the brain" (Finkel, 2018). Sleep Help guides and tips are a great place to start, and if you'd like more information on how neurofeedback can improve quality of sleep, contact us today. 

~ Written by Hannah Berry, M.Ed.

References: Finkel, Michael. (2018). "While we sleep, our mind goes on an amazing journey." National Geographic, Aug. 2018.

Langberg, J. M., Dvorsky, M. R., Marshall, S. and Evans, S. W. (2013). Clinical implications of daytime sleepiness for the academic performance of middle school‐aged adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Sleep Res, 22: 542-548. doi:10.1111/jsr.12049

Timimi, S., & Leo, J. (2009). Rethinking ADHD: From brain to culture. Palgrave Macmillan.

John Mekrut's Broken Brain Interview Part 1

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As previously seen on Hilber Psychological Services, “Broken Brain," Mark Hyman MD is Director of Clevland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The Ultra Wellness Center, and a ten-time #1 Ney York Times Bestselling author. At the peak of his career, he suffered a broken brain, causing him to turn into someone he no longer recognized. He felt like he suffered from depression, ADD, and dementia all at once.” Mark Hyman MD created a docuseries, Broken Brain, revealing what conditions like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, and Brain Fog have in common. John Mekrut interviewed Mark Hyman MD related his docuseries to neurofeedback.

Mekrut’s initial journey with neurofeedback began when his daughter was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As early as kindergarten and first grade, he began noticing her interactions around the world were different than most children. She was disruptive and rebellious, acting in dangerous behaviors, such as running into the middle of the street. Mekrut decided it was time to get help. After seeing doctor after doctor and trying many medications, his daughter’s symptoms were reduced, but to an extreme extent. After watching his daughter suffer from weight gain, lethargy, complete absence, and much more, Mekrut realized that pharmacology was not the answer. His next attempt to help his daughter was neurofeedback.

Mekrut explains, “Neurofeedback trains the brain to reduce its fears and manage its own behaviors”. He saw these results in his daughter as she became more interactive with others and acquired proper skill sets, such as handwriting. This success was the gateway of his own journey into neurofeedback.

There are 5 different types of neurofeedback, all which work, claims Mekrut. He focuses on infra low-frequency training. Neurofeedback works, because every system and organism responds to feedback. Whether the feedback is good or back, our brain is constantly responding to the feedback it is receiving. Unlike biofeedback, such as measuring skin temperature or sweat glands, neurofeedback EEG signaling as a feedback mechanism to understand what is going on in the brain. The feedback that is provided to the brain is giving information to the brain to help it make the best decision. Rather than changing the brain, Mekrut explains that it “trains the brain in self-awareness and self-regulation”.

One of the best aspects of the brain is its plasticity. This is what allows the brain to be trained and acquire self-regulation. For example, someone with PTSD detects threat frequently. Instead of reacting to the constant threat, neurofeedback teaches the brain to “recognize its own patterns, understand that it’s its own, and then do your organic best to self-regulate”, says Mekrut. The proof of this, is that the brain is not a constant, it can be changed.

Neurofeedback is great for everyone, because it doesn’t matter if something is wrong with your brain or not, you brain can always be trained to be better. Imagine training your muscles after therapy compared to training your muscles to run a marathon. In both scenarios, you are training something to make it better. Regardless if you have a mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety, or if you’re a SEAL Team Six, your brain can always be trained to be better. This is performance training.

Mekrut explains the importance on keeping your brain active. Doing brain exercises is a great way. There are many apps you can get, but even simple activities, including soduku, crossword puzzles, or even dancing, constantly keeps your brain interactive. In order to enhance your brain performance, find an activity you enjoy and go do it rather than participating in mindless activities.

In part two, we will focus specifically on infra low-frequency training and more of the connections between neurofeedback and Mark Hyman MD’s Broken Brain docuseries.

Contact us for more information on how Neurofeedback can help you and your family find the focus you need to function at your best.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Mekrut, John. "Broken Brain". Hyman Digital, 2017.