Is there still something to be said about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that has not already been said? Absolutely. After all, the real source of the problem has never been identified, although we know that stimulant medication can be helpful in some 70% of cases. We may be on the threshold of a new understanding of ADHD, and that will bring along new remedies that do not rely on medications.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 8% of 4 to 17 year-olds have been diagnosed with ADHD (some 4.4 million in 2003). But just more than half of these are taking medication for the condition. So for whatever reason, medication is not really the answer. Recent research has shown that ADHD and its subtypes can be identified from a person’s brainwaves, or EEG.
Now, if a brainwave measure can highlight differences that allow us to predict medication response, perhaps the problem is one of “blighted circuitry” rather than of altered chemistry. We now believe that this is indeed the case. And if there is a circuitry problem that responds to a drug remedy, then it must be a software problem, not a hardware problem. The software remedy on the horizon that addresses the blighted circuitry is neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is a training technique based on the brainwaves themselves. Just as the EEG can indicate to us what medication may be most appropriate, it can also indicate to us what kind of EEG-based training can affect a remedy. And now we have something close to an ideal solution. Neurofeedback doesn’t just address some aspects of ADHD. It addresses ADHD comprehensively, and it also helps with related problems of conduct disorder, childhood bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.
Neurofeedback is a learning technique, so there is no question of over-dosing. Once the brain has learned to improve its own circuit function, it seeks that higher level of performance. Moreover, if the attention deficits impacted the child’s IQ, then neurofeedback can also improve IQ. An average improvement of 12 points in IQ score has been documented when all available studies are combined. More than 85% of children referred for neurofeedback will no longer need stimulant medication when they complete the training. Sleep is likely to improve; anxiety and depression will also be helped; and most ADHD children with chronic head and stomach pain will see these resolve. Neurofeedback has been shown to help more than 85% of children, with some clinicians claiming 95% success in this rapidly evolving field.
Through neurofeedback, we are learning how to address ADHD at its core, thus opening the door to many more successful lives.