What is ADD/ADHD and How Can Neurofeedback Help
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two of the most common neurological disorders diagnosed in children and teens. Some symptoms are fidgeting, excessive running, jumping, climbing, or a difficult time staying seated. It’s important to not only look for these symptoms, because only 25 percent of people with ADD show symptoms of hyperactivity (ADHD). ADD/ADHD is a developmental disorder which is present in up to 7.8 percent of children and 4 percent of adults. A person with this disorder has problems with selecting, maintaining, or switching their focus of attention.
However, Attention Deficit may not be the most accurate name for this disorder; Selected Attention Disorder is more appropriate for this condition. Individuals with ADD have the ability to focus, if the topic interests them, but they are unable to focus on anything that bores them. For example, a child might have the ability to pay attention to playing their Xbox for hours, yet be unable to complete two pages of homework. This means a person can achieve highly in an area that they like, but will struggle academically in areas where they have little or no interest at all. Most of us can tolerate being bored for a short period of time. A person with ADHD can’t cope with boredom and will distract themselves by moving around or daydreaming. They may also struggle with controlling their impulses, such as acting without thinking, answering questions before they are asked, and speaking out of turn.
How can Neurofeedback help?
The frontal lobes of our brain are known as the executive parts of the brain, because they are involved with coordinating and integrating all the other parts of the brain through processes such as controlling attention and emotions, planning, organizing, inhibiting, delaying, and impulsivity, as well as regulating the motor areas of the brain. The brain is a spectacular organ, and we can observe the brains activity from a moment to moment basis. We can tell how the brain is working by observing these electrical activities which are called brain waves. Each brain wave is associated with different states of consciousness. For example, 0-4 hz, or delta waves, are associated with sleep. Theta waves are 4-7 hz, and are associated with day dreaming. Alpha waves are 8-12 hz, and are associated with a relaxed and calm state. Beta waves are 13-21 hz, and are associated with being focused and alert.
In order to sustain our attention, we need to have beta activity in and around the frontal lobes, and an inhibition of slow wave activity, such as theta and alpha waves. When a person is presented with an academic task, the brain normally inhibits slow wave activity, such as theta or alpha, and produces more beta activity, The slow activity makes the brain inefficient and the beta activity makes the brain more engaging with the task. In ADHD/ADD, the brain may do the opposite and instead produces even more slow activity and inhibits beta activity.
We can treat ADD/ADHD with EEG Neurofeedback to train the areas of the brain that are not performing properly. Neurofeedback is a painless training system which trains the brain to perform more efficiently with the individual’s active participation. In order to find out exactly which areas are not producing the correct brain waves, we first measure the client’s brain activity by recording these waves while they wear a cap, which has 19 different sensors on it. This process is called EEG. Once we have analyzed the EEG, we will know which areas of the brain we want to train.
During Neurofeedback, we place a sensor on the location of the head we want to exercise. Where the sensors are placed is specific to the individual, and the issue we are trying to address. The client sits in front of a computer monitor and watches a movie for 50 minutes. A technician sets the parameters for how we want the brain waves to perform. The technician also monitors the client’s progress in order to make adjustments depending on how they are doing. When they are focused on the movie, and their brain waves are in the parameters we have set, their movie plays. If their brain waves are not in the parameters we have set, their movie will pause. Our brains want the movie to continue to play, so this reinforces the brain to perform within the parameters which have been set. As we continue to train these different areas of the brain, the neurons (cells in the brain) change, and the brain learns to match these parameters without the reinforcement of Neurofeedback. As we change these neurons, the lack of attention regulation and other symptoms of ADD/ADHD will start to change as well.