Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically characterised by inability to maintain concentration for extended periods of time, making it difficult to manage tasks. The condition commonly affects children but can also continue into adulthood for some.
Stimulants are often prescribed to treat symptoms although they may not necessarily be the best choice. Individuals diagnosed with ADHD typically respond differently to medications which can result in a host of side effects.
One study surveying 325 patients found that 48% reported experiencing at least one side effect including loss of appetite, sleeping difficulties, nausea, headaches, and mood swings. The severity of the side effects depends on the patient and the medication given.
One option that is gaining recognition for treating symptoms of ADHD is neurofeedback therapy.
The procedure involves attaching sensors to patients diagnosed with ADHD. Brain activity is then output to a monitor and the biofeedback sensors are used as guides. The objective is to train patients to produce brainwave patterns associated with concentration.
How effective is the remedy?
In October 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) approved neurofeedback therapy as a “Level 1 Best Support” for the remedy of behavioural symptoms associated with ADHD, meeting the highest standards to the appraisal of psychosocial interventions.
Strict requirements are set in place to achieve this rating.
For a remedy method to meet these conditions, at least two randomised trials of sufficient size must be conducted by two independent groups to prove its efficacy. The studies must also be shown to be superior to placebos and have an outcome equivalent to an already established level 1 or level 2 remedy.
One study involving 102 children diagnosed with ADHD compared one group with frequency-based training and another that received computerised attention skills training. The results pointed to a better outcome for those that received neurofeedback therapy (Gevensleben et al., 2009).
Another study on a smaller scale examined 20 children in two groups (15 active and 5 controls). The notable feature is that fMRI was used to measure the changes with neurofeedback therapy. Measurements from the procedure yielded localised changes that the control group did not exhibit (Beauregard & Levesque, 2006; Levesque, Beauregard & Mensour, 2006).
The research team at BrainTrain in the UK provides a detailed summary of how the APP gave a “Level 1 Best Support” to neurofeedback for ADHD including the studies used to reach that conclusion.
Beauregard, M., & Levesque, J. (2006). Functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of the effects of neurofeedback training on neural bases of selective attention and response inhibition in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 31, 3–20.
Gevensleben, H., Holl, B., Albrecht, B., Vogel, C., Schlamp, D., et al. (2009). Is neurofeedback an efficacious remedy for ADHD?: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 780–789.
Levesque, J., Beauregard, M., & Mensour, B. (2006). Effect of neurofeedback training on the neural substrates of selective attention in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Neuroscience Letters, 394, 216–221.