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An Overview of Neurotherapy for ADHD

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/20/2010

What is neurotherapy? Simply put, it’s a way for the person with ADHD to “condition” their brain to function more efficiently. Neurotherapy for ADD ADHD are all connected because the brain produces slow waves. The ADHD person learns to speed these waves up.

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    Overview

    Medications like stimulants, non-stimulants, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications are all used to treat ADHD. Behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy are also used to teach the person with ADHD how to function and interact at school, home and in the work environment.

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    ADHD and Slow Brainwave Activity

    In the ADHD patient’s brain, the frontal lobe produces too much “theta” brainwave activity, which is not geared to continual mental effort. As the patient tries harder to concentrate and think through mental work, they produce more and more of the slow brainwaves. Eventually, they give up trying to find a solution. Their ability to control impulses decreases.

    People diagnosed with ADHD and ADD have too much slow brainwave activity –– that is, their frontal lobes are functioning in a “pre-sleep” mode. The ADHD person also experiences too little beta wave activity, which helps in executive functioning, ability to focus and organizing thoughts, activities and materials.

    ADD Helpline says that “frontal lobe underarousal” is a large cause of the ADHD person’s inability to concentrate, retain information and resist their tendency to higher activity levels and restlessness. [2] Neurotherapy for ADD ADHD is a non-medication tool doctors can teach their patients to use.

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    Theta Brainwaves versus Beta Brainwaves

    Theta waves (slow) are the brainwaves associated with a pre-sleep state, when the person with ADHD feels foggy. These brainwaves are in stark contrast to the beta brainwaves that lead them to feel focused, calm and able to solve problems. In people who do not have ADHD and whose brains produce sufficient beta brainwave activity, executive functioning is more easily accomplished. [1]

    Teaching people diagnosed with ADHD or ADD to train their brains to utilize more beta activity as opposed to theta activity may help reduce or even eliminate the need for ADD and ADHD medications. [1]

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    What Neurotherapy Does

    The neurotherapist attaches sensors to the ADHD person’s head so brainwaves being produced can be measured. A specialized computer program converts the brainwaves into a pattern that’s easily understood by the person with ADHD.

    As the person watches the brainwaves their brain is producing, the neurotherapist trains the person to produce the beta brainwaves,rather than the theta brainwaves. [1]

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    The Process

    The person with ADHD learns, in repeated therapy sessions, to “dial down” the theta brainwaves and to “dial up” the beta brainwaves. Neurotherapists call this training process “operant conditioning,” which is how people in general learn how to complete new tasks and activities. Because people learn by using different kinds of feedback, therapists began to teach ADHD patients how to gradually make new connections in their brains as they learn how to use faster brainwaves. In teaching their ADHD patients to produce the desired faster brainwave, therapists use printed feedback of the type of brainwave activity the patients are producing as they are learning.

    Neurotherapy centers use a computer game driven by the ADHD patient’s brainwaves. [1]

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    Is Neurotherapy a Valid Treatment for ADHD?

    Neurotherapy or biofeedback doesn’t produce any adverse effects in the ADHD patient who learns to use this as a non-medication tool to manage their ADHD symptoms. In follow-up studies, ADHD patients who used neurotherapy exhibit the ability to concentrate on mental and cognitive activities some 10 years after receiving neurotherapy training. ADD Helpline states that the benefits of neurotherapy for ADD and ADHD are expected to be “permanent.” [2]

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    References

    http://nchouston.org/our_services/adhd/

    Neurotherapy Center of Houston: ADHD

    http://www.addhelpline.org/eeg.htm

    ADD Helpline: Brainwaves and ADHD