Re-Training ADD and ADHD Brain Waves
into Normal Patterns of Brain Functioning
Although estimates vary, ADD and ADHD are generally believed to afflict 4-6% of all children.
In either adults or children, it is characterized by
inappropriate degrees of inattention, hyperactivity, excess
energy, and impulsiveness.
There are typically problems with
concentration, mood, sleep, learning, memory, poor grades,
difficulty listening or completing tasks, excessive talking,
fidgeting, and difficulty paying attention to tasks at hand.
Long-term results of untreated
ADD/ADHD can include diminished academic performance,
increased personal problems (e.g., divorce, work problems,
psychiatric problems, difficulties with the law), and reduced
Learning disabilities (LD) often
involve problems with auditory/visual processing and problems
with reading, math, speech, and other areas.
Traditional Treatment for ADD/ADHD
Several types of medication are helpful with ADD/ADHD symptoms, but one study showed that
69% of children on stimulants suffered one or more side effects. Sadly, the average Ritalin study only follows effects for 3 weeks and the longest follow-up ever done on stimulants was about 6 months long.
A massive recent literature review found that
medication did absolutely nothing for 25-40% of children
A thorough review of research
found that stimulants provide "temporary improvement," but "on
the other hand, changes that point toward longer-term
improvement (e.g., in academic outcome, antisocial behavior,
or arrest rate) were not found, and only small effects were
observed on learning and achievement."
In 1998, a Council on Scientific Affairs report from the American Medical Association concluded that pharmacotherapy alone, while effective in short-term symptomatic improvement, “has not yet been shown to improve the long-term outcome for any domain of functioning (classroom behavior, learning, impulsivity, etc.).”
Monastra's (2002) recent research found
neurofeedback to be significantly more effective than Ritalin in changing ADD/ADHD, without having to remain on drugs.
Function is Evaluated by Mapping the Brain
must first do a quantitative EEG brain map (qEEG) to
assess brain wave function and determine where the
abnormal areas of the brain are malfunctioning. Twenty
small electrodes are placed on the scalp that measure and
record the electrical activity in different parts of the
This is a non-invasive
procedure that measures the brain wave activity, just like
a physician listens to your heart from the surface of your
skin. This is painless and noninvasive. All of this is
done while the patient is resting quietly with his or her
eyes closed, and sometimes doing a cognitive task.
A highly skilled specialist takes
the brain wave data and processes it through a normative
database that analyzes the brainwave patterns. This results in
a brain map that shows the areas that are malfunctioning
within the brain.
It also shows the various
interactions between different parts of the brain, and the
inefficiency of communication within the brain of information
that is taken in by the normal auditor and visual processes of
The brain may be blocked from
achieving normal function by the many slow waves that are in
the brain and causing it to be overwhelmed with under
activity. The qEEG allows us to see what is happening in the
In looking at the chart above,
you see the theta waves in the second row up from the bottom.
In the normal size, theta waves are very beneficial. However,
when theta waves are tool large, as shown in the middle area
of the chart, shown in red, theta is know to cause many
problems, including ADD.
The brain maps and charts are
then analyzed and a plan is made that will enable a
neurofeedback technician to be able to re-train the brain and
reduce the large amounts of slow waves.
Thus, the brain map serves as a
guide to be able to know what needs to be changed and how to
do it to obtain better brain function.
Analyzing the Brain Waves for ADD/ADHD
Children or adults with ADD or ADHD usually have quite different brainwave patterns than we see in learning disability.
In ADD/ADHD there tends to be a slowing of brain activity in the frontal and central regions of the brain,
most often in the slow theta or alpha frequency bands.
Scientific research has identified several different subtypes
of ADD/ADHD, the most common being the theta subtype as seen
in the next picture.
The map below is of a boy with
ADHD. It shows very excessive theta activity, especially
frontally, and a deficiency of healthy beta brainwaves. There
is also an alpha subtype that is often seen in adults or
teenagers, and a beta subtype which is uncommon. There are
also many individuals who display a combination of the
Therefore, a careful assessment
of brain function is essential for diagnosing the brain map
patterns of ADD and ADHD and deciding a plan for training the
brain into correct patterns of functional behavior to reduce
the ADD and ADHD problems.
This Brain Map Shows excessive
activity of the slow theta waves in the front, thus showing a typical pattern that occurs in Attention Deficit Disorder.
Yellow is 3 Standard Deviations too high
Red is 2 standard deviations too high
Gray represents normal activity
Medium blue is 2 standard deviations too low
Light blue is 3 standard deviations too low
In people who have the slow waves
of theta or alpha in the front, essentially the frontal lobes
are lazy and under active. The brain's frontal lobes are the
executive control centers that control attention, emotion, and
When there is slowed brainwave
activity frontally, the brain lacks the proper inhibitory
capacity. The result is a problem controlling attention and
poor intellectual efficiency, problems controlling emotions,
and problems controlling behavior.
Thus, the person tends to be
impulsive, lacks good judgment, and acts on the emotion and
impulse of the moment without adequately considering
consequences. Because the brain is not functioning properly,
the inhibitory processes of the frontal lobes are not
adequately putting on "the brakes" to create self-control, and
irrational impulsivity is often the result.
Neurofeedback is the Method Set Up for Re-Training the Brain
Into Better Patters of Functioning
Neurofeedback research began in
the 1970s, first proving successful in reducing seizures in
uncontrolled epilepsy. Neurofeedback is a powerful form of
biofeedback-, but EEG neurofeedback is exclusively for
improving the brain.
Ordinarily we cannot control our
brainwave activity. However, when can see our brainwaves on a
computer screen almost instantaneously, it gives us the
ability to influence our brain's activity. Neurofeedback
training is done with an electroencephalograph (EEG) that
measures the brain's electrical activity and sends the
information to a computer. The person is given visual and
auditory feedback and coached to learn to suppress slow
brainwave activity while increasing healthy activity.
Gradually, the brain becomes conditioned and these patterns become enduring. Unlike the very short (often just 3 weeks) follow-ups in medication studies, neurofeedback research has found that in
10 year follow-ups about 80% of the cases will have reduced the ADD symptoms or will have eliminated them form their lives,
usually allowing the patient to go off medication.
Monastra's (2002) research found
neurofeedback to be significantly more effective than Ritalin
in changing ADD/ADHD, without having to remain on drugs
following the sessions to re-train the brain.
Increases in IQ scores of 8 to 23 points have also been found
chart below shows the difference in !Q scores before
neurofeedback and after neurofeedback.
Frank H. Duffy, M.D., a Professor and Pediatric Neurologist at Harvard Medical School, stated in an editorial in the January 2000 issue of the journal
Clinical Electroencephalography that scholarly literature suggests that neurofeedback “should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy it would be universally accepted and widely used” (p. v) “It is a field to be taken seriously by all” (p. vii) as a method of improving brain wave function and behavior.
(Click on the Image to Play Video)
Sanchez in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (ADD/Hyperactivity)
There is a full chapter about
Neurofeedback in The ADD Book: Neurofeedback by William Sears
and Lynda Thompson. To read more Articles on the ADD, click on
one of the article links below:
The ADD Book: Neurofeedback
A Modern Miracle
Brain Train ADHD Facts
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