ADHD and Neurofeedback
Abnormalities in electroencephalography (EEG) results have been reported in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for decades. There is no doubt that individuals with ADHD can learn using neurofeedback (as part of multi-modal approach) to achieve better regulation of their brain function. The technique has become a viable alternative to medication - especially in the USA and many European countries.
Typologies of ADHD can be identified using EEG and in particular by the so-called qEEG approach which takes into account the frequency and amplitude characteristics of the electrical activity of the brain.
The most frequently identified pattern assoicated with the inattentive type of ADHD is an excess of low frequency components (4-7 Hz) combined with too little high frequency (18-21 Hz) in the midline and frontal cortices. A smaller percentage of hyper aroused individuals will exhibit raised brain activty levels above 21 Hz.
Neurofeeback is biofeedback for the brain. Sensors are placed on the scalp and a device such as the NeXus biofeedback amplifier can be used to sample the raw data, process it as required and present the information in various ways on the computer display. Processing of the EEG data can allow the presentation of the raw signal based on the amount of energy in various frequency bands via a Fourier transform. These frequency bands are typically described as Slow (up to 7 Hz), Medium (8-12 Hz) and Fast (13 - 21 Hz). The more energy seen in the higher frequency EEG bands then generally the more aroused, mentally and physically the subject is.
The aim of the neurofeedback practitioner is to encourage the production of "healthier" brainwaves. For example the client who has an excessive amount of slow frequency brainwaves is helped to produce higher frequencies instead. The client learns to increase the energy in the "rewarded" frequency range and at the same time reduce the energy in the slower frequency range.
The way the client is "rewarded" with feedback can vary. With children the feedback can be gamified - for example, points are scored by interacting with a child friendly game. For adults the feedback may be auditory, visual or even tactile or some combination. The idea would be that as the frequency of the brain waves shifts toward the desired frequencies the feedback is maintained. The ultimate reward of course is a calmer feeling that healthier brain waves can bring.
Make this successful state conscious, explicit and associated with the focusing of the brain by the user is important to success.
For more information see
Steffart, B; Steffart, T
"Neurofeedback and ADHD"
ADHD in Practice 2010, vol 2, No 1, p 16-19
Thomson, L; Thompson, M
QEEG and neurofeedback for assessment and effective intervention with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Chapter 14 p 337 in
"Introduction to quantitative EGG and Neurofeedback - Advanced Theory and Applications"
Second Edition, Academic Press 2013