Neurofeedback: ADD + ADHD Treatment without Medication
Here’s the good news: while medication provides temporary relief from the symptoms of ADHD and ADD, neurofeedback gets to the root of the problem in ADD and ADHD by training the brain’s attention networks to function better. We know from many studies that the brain is capable of enormous change and reorganization through practice. Neurofeedback involves massive practice to activate and strengthen attention networks in the brain so that you can sustain attention, without drugs. Neurofeedback is a proven method of ADD and ADHD treatment without medication.
The limits of medications
Medications help many people with ADHD or ADD. But often symptoms remain despite medication. Some people have lasting negative side effects. Some do not benefit at all. Even when medications help, they do not solve the core problem in ADHD – reduced activity in the brain’s attention networks. That is why people with attention deficit disorder may need to continue to take the medications every day, probably for the rest of their lives. But most people do not continue medication long term. More than 75% of teens refuse to take their medication. Sadly, adolescence is the time when they need help the most: Academic demands increase. Risks from impulsivity grow dramatically. Impulsive aggression at recess is one thing: poor impulse control while driving or dating is a much more serious risk. Many choose neurofeedback because it is a natural ADHD treatment without medication.
Neurofeedback for ADHD + ADD
Neurofeedback, also called EEG biofeedback or neurotherapy, is a research proven way to help you improve your brain function through intensive brain training exercises. Although the technology is complex, the process is simple, painless, and non-invasive. It is just learning. You learn to alter your brain activity the same way you learn every other skill – through feedback and practice. What is new in neurofeedback is that you are guided by a form of feedback that was previously not available to you. You get instantaneous information about changes in your brain’s electrical activity. Every half second, your brain activity is compared to your targets for change. You get a signal and “reward” when you meet the goal. No signal or reward when you do not. In 20 neurofeedback sessions, with feedback every half second, you get 72,000 chances to learn. That’s a lot of repetition and practice. Brain science has shown that repetitive exercise of brain networks reshapes the brain. Neurofeedback allows you to reshape attention networks in your brain. This form of feedback guided brain training is a proven ADHD treatment without medication. Learn more.
Research on neurofeedback for ADHD + ADD
There is a solid body of research showing that neurofeedback is an effective treatment for ADHD and ADD. A statistical study of all the existing research was published in a neurology journal in 2009. At that time, more than 10 controlled studies had been completed. The results showed a significant benefit of neurofeedback for attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity when compared to control groups who received computerized attention exercises, group therapy, muscle activity biofeedback, and being placed on a wait list. Follow up studies indicate that these improvements are lasting.
Attention deficit disorder is associated with decreased activity in attention networks in the brain, especially in the front part of the brain – the frontal lobe. Several studies have shown increased frontal lobe activity after neurofeedback, documenting that neurofeedback is addressing the core problem in ADHD, not just temporarily reducing the symptoms. At the NeuroDevelopment Center, we recommended neurofeedback when:
medications do not help or do not help enough
medications result in side effects
clients prefer not to use medication
adolescents refuse medication
- clients do not want to have to use stimulants over the longer term
Neurofeedback is often especially helpful with the difficulties with frustration, irritability, anger, anxiety, and mood that very often accompany ADHD. You can download a summary of research on neurofeedback for ADHD written by Dr. Hirshberg and published in Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, a neurology journal. The prestigious American Academy of Pediatrics recently reviewed research on non-medical treatments for ADHD. This body concluded that neurofeedback meets the level of “Best Support” based on research on ADHD treatment.
See the problem, then correct it.
ADHD results from problems in attention networks in the brain. Medications just treat the symptoms and do not correct the source of the problem. At the NeuroDevelopment Center, our approach is different. We measure brain function with a quantitative EEG brain map
, so that you can see the reason for your difficulties. This image shows the problem for one of our clients – reduced activity (shown in red) in frontal attention centers. Once we see the source of the problem in the brain, we target that area for change with neurofeedback brain training. This allows you to reshape your brain, not just mask your symptoms.
After 20 sessions of neurofeedback, my husband and I see the improvement first-hand in day to day situations! Evan’s “stick-to-itness” has improved tremendously. He’s actually able to finish tasks he begins without getting side-tracked ten times! He functions on a much more even keel, and his outlook is much more positive. Incidents which would have angered or frustrated him before neurofeedback, now seem to have very little negative effect. His whole personality has “lightened up,” and he is actually able to laugh at himself! In looking at his report card for the last marking period I was truly amazed; all his grades were good, but in two courses he liked the least, he went from a 70 to an 80, and a 75 to a 95! I very rarely feel the need to give him his medication any more, so I feel much more secure about sending him to college this September.
M.P., Attleboro, MA
Real Stories: Three clients with ADHD:
Lee’s Mom described her as sweet and happy, but “slow, completely lost, and clueless.” She had been diagnosed with ADHD. Her symptoms, as reported by her teacher and her parents, were quite severe and her learning at school quite impaired. Lee completed forty neurofeedback sessions. When she was done, her parents and teacher repeated the Conners ADHD symptom rating scale which had been done before she started. Her parents also wanted her IQ test repeated. As the graphs here show, Lee showed huge and very consistent improvements in attention, hyperactivity, and other common symptoms of ADHD. Her IQ increased dramatically as well. She went from the borderline mentally impaired range to the normal range.
Still sweet and happy, she was now much better able to learn in school.
I arrived desperate. The medications for attentional deficit disorder made me more anxious, not more effective. They worsened my reading comprehension and my test taking skills. Four times I had failed Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam, the exam that students take after completing the first two years of medical school. While my mentors both in the classroom and on the hospital floors reassured me that I knew enough to pass, I kept failing. A trusted friend and nationally recognized neuroscientist recommended neurofeedback, saying he had seen Dr. Hirshberg speak at Brown University and was impressed.
The effects were not immediate. Within 5 sessions, however, I began noticing subtle differences in the way I approached test questions. My ability to remain focused on the question at hand changed for the better. I began to read faster and discriminate more effectively between more and less important information, as presented in the often lengthy test questions. I also noticed a greater ease with which I approached my daily test preparation.Throughout the 6 week therapy, Dr. Hirshberg made adjustments in the treatment protocol based on my personal reports and continually honed the training to maximize my ability to learn, and convey what I had learned, effectively.
Curiously enough, the afternoon I found out by telephone that I had passed the exam, I was at the NeuroDevelopment Center undergoing training. With electrodes attached to my head, I got the good news. Two and a half years of effort had come to an end. The sounds and colors from the Dr. Hirshberg’s training terminals had taught my brain about itself. My effort had paid off, but it had also been sharpened by a very special type of therapy, one that is not yet part of medical curricula. Thanks to the neurodevelopment center I am now free to move ahead in my professional, and personal, development.
As tears streamed down my face, and I tried to verbalize my joy to those in the room, Dr. Hirshberg detached the electrodes: “That will be enough training for today.”
“Our son was diagnosed with ADD eleven years ago, and since then has been on either Ritalin or Adderal. Although he has willingly taken his medication when it is put out for him, he doesn’t think to take it on his own. I was getting desperate. He is heading off to college next year, and I had visions of him becoming angry, frustrated, and discouraged, as well as missing classes, assignment deadlines, and even meals due to his lack of time awareness.”
The solution: “After 20 neurofeedback sessions, my husband and I see Evan’s improvement first-hand in day to day situations! Evan’s “stick-to-itness” has improved tremendously. He’s actually able to finish tasks he begins without getting side-tracked ten times! He functions on a much more even keel, and his outlook is much more positive. Incidents which would have angered or frustrated him before neurofeedback, now seem to have very little negative effect. His whole personality has “lightened up,” and he is actually able to laugh at himself! In looking at his report card for the last marking period I was truly amazed; all his grades were good, but in two courses he liked the least, he went from a 70 to an 80, and a 75 to a 95! I very rarely feel the need to give him his medication any more, so I feel much more secure about sending him to college this September.”
We tested Evan’s attention using a computerized test before he started neurofeedback and after 20 sessions. His scores before neurofeedback placed him in the 3rd %ile for both auditory and visual attention. After 20 sessions of neurofeedback, he score at the 58th %ile for auditory attention and the 63rd %ile for visual attention. His scores were normal.
If you think neurofeedback might help you or someone you love, we are happy to answer your questions.Contact us!
*The names and photos of “Real Story” clients have been changed to preserve their privacy and adhere to HIPPA regulations.