Annals of Functional Medicine - Neurofeedback for Treating Attention Disorders

ADHD Brain Scan
Many children, perhaps 5% or more, struggle with attentional problems in school or out. These children are often classified as ADD or ADHD and there is sometimes pressure brought by the educational system to medicate children to improve academic performance and/or behavorial issues. It is too simplistic to categorize ADD drugs as "good" or "bad". The purpose of today's post is to highlight some of the problems with current psychopharmaceuticals for ADD and to increase awareness of neurofeedback, an alternative method that has an excellent track record of improving focus and behavior.

Drugs like ritalin, methylphenidate and other stimulants may work to relieve symptoms of ADD, but they do not repair the underlying problem of improper blood flow to areas of the brain that relate to attention and alertness. Moreover, these drugs often have powerful side effects, ranging from mild psychological symptoms (i.e., insomnia, personality changes, slight tics, aggressive behavior) to more far-reaching physical effects such as increased blood pressure and in rare cases, sudden cardiac death (see this article for a discussion of the pros and cons). More recent publications have also quantified the risk of substance abuse in taking these drugs, which has gone up significantly according to this study on teen ADHD medication users from 2009. Perhaps more alarming is the lack of consensus among researchers on their effects on adolescent brain development.

Neurofeedback is essentially a form of "brain training" that has been around for 20 years or more and has a sound foundation of published literature showing efficacy ... in fact, a remarkable 85% chance of significant improvement (see this article from Neuroscience letters showing that neurofeedback training restored normal function to the part of the brain that functions abnormally in ADHD). That means some children might not improve and still require medication, or some children might require temporary medication until the training kicks in.  But this training has the capacity to correct the variant electrical and blood flow patterns seen on EEG and MRI Spect (blood flow patterns) in ADD patients.

We are happy to welcome Jacqueline DeVries, MS, a neurotherapist with experience "training out" attention deficit disorders.  She will be available 2 days a week in our Valley Cottage office. Here is her website for more information. Please contact her directly (jackiedevries@mac.com) if you are interested in scheduling an evaluation and appointment. It is not necessary to discontinue any medication in order to be evaluated or start training.

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