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Spotlight on Light and Sound Therapy for ADHD

written by: Roohi Khan • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/29/2011

For parents looking for an alternative to Ritalin, ADHD stimulation therapy offers a safe and effective treatment. Known as light and sound therapy, this treatment attempts to alter the chemistry and wave patterns of the brain by using a combination of flashing lights and pulsing tones.

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    The theory behind the therapy

    The human brain produces four basic brainwave states, namely, beta, alpha, theta and delta, with different waves produced in different situations.

    For example, beta waves help an individual to concentrate, and while reading are produced in a normal brain. However, in ADHD individuals, theta waves are produced while performing this activity instead of beta brainwaves.

    In fact, in a study conducted by Mann et al (Journal of Pediatric Neurology) it was found that the theta waves in the frontal parts of the brain of ADHD boys increased in strength when they were required to perform a mental task. Accompanied with a decrease in metabolism and blood flow to the frontal cortex, these theta waves made the mind sluggish and the boys quickly lost interest in the activity at hand.

    Drugs such as Ritalin can be effective in these individuals since they act as stimulants and increase the production of beta brainwaves, thereby improving concentration. Light and sound therapy, also known as audio-visual entrainment (AVE) works on the same principles except that it does so without any of the side-effects associated with common ADHD medications.

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    What is light and sound therapy?

    This stimulation therapy for ADHD uses an audio-visual entrainment device, which transmits patterns of flashing lights through eye sets along with pulsing tones through headphones. The lights and sounds used by the device mimic the beta waves of a human brain.

    After a short period of exposure, the brain begins to match the same frequency as the stimuli presented by the entrainment device and beta wave patterns are created in the brain of the ADHD child. The therapy is also believed to increase blood flow and brain metabolism.

    All of this helps the child to improve their concentration which can enhance memory, verbal learning, and problem solving and planning. However, since the results of this audio-visual entrainment device are not permanent, regular sessions may be required.

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    Benefits for ADHD individuals

    Several studies have demonstrated that ADHD stimulation therapy can improve concentration, decrease hyperactivity, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve impulse control.

    You can expect to see an improvement in academic performance that match or are superior to the results of using stimulant medications in your child. Studies by Carter and Russell (1993 and 1994) have found that school boys undergoing audio-visual entrainment showed significant improvements in reading, auditory memory and spelling.

    Light and sound therapy has been successfully used to treat other disorders including depression and autism spectrum disorders. The success of this ADHD stimulation therapy has been well-documented and the fact that it does not have any side-effects makes it an attractive alternative to the different stimulant medications.

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    References

    Carter, J. & Russell, H. (1993). A pilot investigation of audio and visual entrainment of brainwave activity in learning disabled boys. Texas Researcher, 4: 65-72

    Mann, C.A., Lubar, J.F., & Zimmerman, A.W. (1992). Quantitative analysis of EEG in boys with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder: Controlled study with clinical implications. Journal of Pediatric Neurology, 8: 30-36

    Neuro Advantage Trainer: Light and Sound Neurotherapy for ADHD and Learning Problems, http://www.neuro-advantage.com/page/847765

    Autism Today: Light and Sound Therapy, http://lightandsoundtherapy.com/about_ave.htm