It is not rare for some children to show difficulty keeping their attention on tasks like playing activities, for them to be forgetful, easily distracted, finding it difficult to focus and complete their schoolwork; it’s also common to seem like they don’t listen when you are speaking to them or even run around and climb things in inappropriate situations… They are children! However, when inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity became a serious problem they may be the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurobehavioural disorder that makes it difficult for a child to do well in school and in certain social situations.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) appears in early childhood. Although there are many theories, the exact cause and the mechanism of ADHD is not known and research is ongoing. At the moment, it’s generally accepted that ADHD symptoms result from a combination of genetics, chemistry and environmental factors. Children with ADHD frequently exhibit a variety of physical problems such as headaches and immune system deficiencies, resulting in frequent illness. Additionally, anxiety, depression, oppositional-defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive behaviors may also be present.
The diagnosis of childhood ADHD should only be made by a child psychologist, pediatrician, family practice doctor, pediatric neurologist or a child psychiatrist. The first line of treatment for ADHD kids is often drugs. ADHD medication is based on components such as amphetamines or amphetamine-class drugs that can induce harmful side effects such as fatigue, loss of humour, appetite suppression, or impaired growth, among others. But is medication the only answer or might it be reduced if it is combined with other alternative therapies?
Inattention and hyperactivity can be detected in brain waves. Typically the brain’s measured activity is divided into frequency bands that depending on their location on the scalp, are given to a physiological meaning.
- The beta waves, with a frequency of 13-30 cycles per second, reflect those waves that are being produced by the brain when the subject is alert and/or performing a task, for example when solving a mathematical problem. Low amplitude beta waves with multiple and varying frequencies is often associated with active, busy or anxious behaviour.
- The theta waves, with a frequency of 4-8 cycles per second, on the other hand, reflect the brain in the state of sleep, daydreaming or lack of attention. Excess theta waves represents abnormal activity that can be seen as a focal disturbance.
Consequently, if we measured the ratio of beta waves to theta waves, we would then have criteria for knowing if the brain is functioning primarily in a beta state, meaning alertness, or a theta state, indicating lack of focus on the tasks at hand. The goal of neurofeedback training is to alter these abnormal brain waves by decreasing theta waves, while simultaneously increasing beta waves.
During the ADHD neurofeedback treatment children learn how to self-regulate their beta to theta ratio by playing videogames. An EEG measuring device records the children’s brain signal and a computer processes it, extracting the attention and alertness levels that are transformed into game commands. In a typical application the children can speed up a racing car or fly an airplane higher depending on their beta to theta ratio interpretation. Neurofeedback training typically takes anywhere from 20 to 40 sessions. Little by little children naturally learn how to operate their brains under normal levels of activity gaining attention and relaxation.
Neurofeedback benefits for ADHD treatment are huge. First of all it does not cause adverse side effects, and unlike drugs it can help the brain by developing more normalized functioning for long-term improvement and can restore the child’s self-esteem more fully than a temporary drug effect can.
Many research studies focus on neurofeedback training for ADHD with great results, but it is no longer an experimental technique, since it has come out the lab and many children diagnosed from ADHD are currently being treated with this technique worldwide. Don’t you think it is a safer and more natural way to teach your child how to stay focused?