Neurofeedback Improves ADHD Symptoms

A doctor examining an xray slide of brain scansChildren with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be trained through biofeedback to regulate their brain waves, investigators in Germany report. This learned control is associated with durable improvements in behavior, attention and IQ scores.

Dr. Ute Strehl and her colleagues at University of Tubingen explain that neurofeedback is used to modify activity of the brain, specifically of slow cortical potentials for patients with ADHD.

Although previous studies have shown the improved self-regulatory capacities in this patient population, no reports included electroencephalogram (EEG) data during learning and follow-up. An EEG measures the brain’s electrical activity.

Their study included 23 children with ADHD, ages 8 to 13 years, who were told the purpose of the training was to “speed up their brain to maintain concentration in situations that are normally difficult,” such as conversations or homework.

The training was introduced as a computer game. The subjects faced a computer that provided visual feedback in the form of movement of a ball, in which the position of the ball reflected amplitude of brain waves. Auditory feedback was also given and the children received small gifts at the end of a session based on the number of accurate responses.

While viewing a ball on the screen, they were told “to be attentive to the feedback and to find the most successful mental strategy to move the ball into the required goal.”

The subjects completed 30 one-hour sessions divided into three phases. Each phase lasted for 2 weeks and the training sessions were held 5 days per week. After each phase was completed, the subjects took a 6 to 8-week break. During the last phase, the children worked on their homework while they applied the self-regulation strategy they had learned.

At the end of the training and at a 6-month follow-up, EEG tests indicated that the children had learned to regulate negative slow cortical potentials. Two of the subjects at the end of training and three at follow-up no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

Performance IQ scores on Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, and measures of attention improved significantly from screening to follow-up.