Neurofeedback is an intervention that has been historically used in the treatment of ADHD. Scientists have known for many years that the brain emits various brainwaves that are indicative of the electrical activity of the brain and that different types of brainwaves are emitted depending on whether the person is in a focused and attentive state or a drowsy/day-dreaming state.
Neurofeedback allows a person to view these brainwaves on a computer screen as they occur. By teaching a person to produce brainwave patterns that are associated with a relaxed, alert, and focused state, and having him/her practice this skill for many hours of training, neurofeedback practitioners contend that individuals with ADHD can learn to maintain this state and that many symptoms of ADHD will diminish. Many scientists do not believe that such claims have been sufficiently documented, however.
A typical clinical session of neurofeedback training for a child with ADHD involves pasting electrodes (sensors that pick up the electrical activity of the brain) to the head with conductive gel. Wires from these electrodes are connected to a device that amplifies the small signal obtained from the electrodes. The child sits in a comfortable chair and watches a computer monitor.
The monitor displays a picture such as a moving graph that indicates the degree to which the child is producing the desired pattern of brainwave activity. The goal is for the child to learn to produce the type of brainwave activity that is associated with a focused and attentive state.
Over the course of numerous training sessions it may gradually become easier for the child to achieve this state and to maintain it for longer periods of time. Proponents of neurofeedback often describe this training as an exercise program for the brain, and training continues until the client demonstrates the ability to consistently achieve and maintain a pattern of EEG activity indicative of a relaxed and attentive state. This typically requires 40-60 sessions.
By the conclusion of treatment, neurofeedback advocates believe that increases in attention and reductions in impulsivity that are evident during training will transfer to important areas of the child’s life (e.g. home and school) and there are several published studies that are consistent with this position. Critics of neurofeedback, however, do not believe there is credible evidence to indicate that such a transfer occurs.
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