Another drug-free approach to improving cognitive performance is neurofeedback.
It is a biofeedback methodology that gives the individual feedback about the kind of brainwaves being generated and trains the individual to produce the appropriate brain waves.
The brain waves associated with focused attention are called Beta. The brain waves associated with disorganized thinking are called Theta. With ADHD clients , we’re training the patient to increase Beta and decrease Theta.
This change, increasing Beta and decreasing Theta, eventually becomes permanent. This leads to consistently improved control of attention, with less time being spent in relatively disorganized mental states.
We could go into more detail, outlining all the different brain waves and their frequencies, but the basic premise is the same–if you have ADHD, Theta bad, Beta good.
If you’re from the 60s or 70s , the only brain wave , you have probably heard of is Alpha which is associated with calm, peace and relaxation. There are many approaches to generating Alpha, but there is not consistent reasearch suggesting that alpha training is beneficial for ADHD.
Treatment takes about 30 sessions. Improvement i n ability to concentrate and control behavior is thought to be permanent. A session lasts about 45 minutes.
The patient has electrodes stuck to their scalp in various precisely measured locations. This sounds really bad but is about the same as putting tape on the scalp. It is totally painless. The electrode has a small cavity that is filled with electrode gel–a sort of sticky substance kind of like chapstick, that improves electrical conductance. Understand the electrodes are passive receivers, they do not send electricity into the brain, they merely measure the electrical impulses that the brain is producing.
Although this procedure–geting hooked up–can take a little time, most little boys kind of enjoy the process. After hook-up they wires coming off their scalpto the machine. In my clinic, we use a wireless system that allows a lot of movement without pulling the electrodes off.
Treatment sessions normally consist of learning to control brain waves, while watching videos or listening to audio cassettes. (The speed of presentation and , indeed, whether it is presented at all is controlled by the patient’s brain waves. If the patient is meeting the training criterion, the dvd or cd plays normally. Fall out of criterion and they slow or stop.)
We use a system that allows us to combine neurofeedback and cognitive retraining as well as play games and do dvds or cds. This makes sessions relatively enjoyable and pleasant.
It takes 15-20 sessions before much progress is seen. Most treatment protocols go to about 30. Research is solid and generally supportive of neurofeedback.
It is definitely a treatment approach that you should consider.
For more information on ADHD treatment, see Trainiing the ADHD Brain–computerized cognitive retraining @ http://terrygingrasphd.com