Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Biofeedback
A Brief Literature Review
By Kelsey Moss
Are you worried that your child is falling behind in school due to online learning? Are you starting to notice chronic inattention, impulsivity, behavioural troubles or other signs of ADHD? Learn how Neurofeedback might be able to address these issues without the use of medication.
EEG Biofeedback (also known as Neurofeedback (NF) or EEG Neurotherapy) has been used for years, but it has gained more popularity recently as patients and professionals strive to find effective modes of therapy other than psychopharmaceuticals. As a non-invasive, painless, and medication free treatment, more and more practitioners are starting to incorporate neurofeedback into their practice.
One review identified 328 studies researching its use for treatment of “depression, anorexia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia, abuse of substances, neuroses, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s disease,” (Markiewcz, 2017). They found that neurofeedback positively influences “cognitive processes, mood, and anxiety levels.” So what does this mean? You are not your thoughts or emotions. These are things that happen to you that can be changed and managed through different forms of therapy. One of which is neurofeedback, that targets the root of the problem (ineffective brain functioning), instead of targeting the symptoms alone.
A major advantage is that benefits tend to last, even after completing the treatment program. In other words, once a client finished treatment and is no longer attending regular appointments, the improvements they made will persist over time (Van Doren, Arns, Heinrich, Vollebregt, Strehl, & K Loo, 2019). Of the various deficits and disorders biofeedback has been used for, the most researched and practiced is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Although most commonly diagnosed in childhood, ADHD can also significantly impact the lives and livelihoods of adults. It is typically characterized by “persistent and developmentally-inappropriate levels of overactivity, inattention and impulsivity,” (Tripp, & Wickens, 2009). Behavioural and cognitive problems are likely the result of inefficient brain functioning – meaning certain areas are not operating as they should. Tripp and Wickens also describe regions of the brain that are structured differently, with the most notable being the frontal lobe.
This area of the brain is the last to fully develop (usually around age 25), and is responsible for executive functioning (EF). Executive functioning is the brain’s ability to plan, practice self-control, make decisions, make judgments, maintain attention, and so much more. You could say its pretty important! One way to think about this is to imagine the brain’s EF as the air traffic control center at an airport. It helps organize and direct the trillions of connections that each brain has. If there are problems in this region of the brain, more issues can arise that can be catastrophic to day-to-day operations.
So how does NF work? Truthfully, researchers still do not fully understand how, they just know that it works. Neurofeedback involves measuring the brain’s electrical activity in specific regions, which then gets processed, and pre-determined frequencies set by the practitioner are signaled back in real time. We basically read what the brain is doing, then tell it “instead of doing that, I want you to do this.” This trains the brain to reform inefficient connections. There is an old saying in neuroscience – brain cells that fire together, wire together. So the more we get a certain area to operate efficiently, the more your brain will naturally start to do it in your day-to-day!
Do you have more questions about whether NF is the right choice for you or a loved one? Reach out to us! Our highly experienced staff would be happy to talk details and go into things in more detail.
Deiber, M. P., Hasler, R., Colin, J., Dayer, A., Aubry, J. M., Baggio, S., Perroud, N., & Ros, T. (2020). Linking alpha oscillations, attention and inhibitory control in adult ADHD with EEG neurofeedback. NeuroImage. Clinical, 25, 102145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2019.102145
Enriquez-Geppert, S., Smit, D., Pimenta, M. G., & Arns, M. (2019). Neurofeedback as a Treatment Intervention in ADHD: Current Evidence and Practice. Current psychiatry reports, 21(6), 46. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1021-4
Markiewcz R. (2017). The use of EEG Biofeedback/Neurofeedback in psychiatric rehabilitation. Zastosowanie EEG Biofeedback/Neurofeedback w rehabilitacji psychiatrycznej. Psychiatria polska, 51(6), 1095–1106. https://doi.org/10.12740/PP/68919
Tripp, G., & Wickens, J. R. (2009). Neurobiology of ADHD. Neuropharmacology, 57(7-8), 579–589. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2009.07.026
Van Doren, J., Arns, M., Heinrich, H., Vollebregt, M. A., Strehl, U., & K Loo, S. (2019). Sustained effects of neurofeedback in ADHD: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 28(3), 293–305. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-018-1121-4