These are two related chronic conditions that are differentiated by severity of impairment and degree of physical activity and impulsivity. Attention Deficit Disorder is characterized by many of the following: difficulty in sustaining mental efforts for tasks considered difficult or boring, distractibility, forgetfulness, and avoidance of sustained mental effort. Hyperactive or impulsive children (ADHD) often have trouble being still, talking excessively, behavioral problems, aggression, or disruptive behavior. Some show signs of combined symptoms. To meet the criteria of these disorders, you must show symptoms consistently over at least six months. Other problems may mimic these symptoms such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other organic conditions. While first thought to be only a problem for children, it is now known that theses symptoms may persist during adulthood. Individuals with these disorders may have have all or some of the following problems which contribute or cause their conditions: dysfunction in the frontal lobes, excessive low frequency brain wave activity (delta, theta, and alpha), auditory processing problems, or other learning disabilities. There is a high incidence of other associated problems such as behavior problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, substance abuse, and other learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Studies trying to find a consistent link between food or environmental sensitivities (e.g., food dyes, refined sugar) have not been successful. However, since there may be several causes for these conditions, these factors may not be necessarily be ruled out as at least a factor in their symptomatic picture. Some authors recommend trying elimination diets to see if there are any connections between foods or substances and their identified symptoms. While there is no shortage of discussion and controversy about these conditions, there is much consensus that these symptoms often represent a condition of under arousal in the brain. This may seem counter intuitive for a child who has excessive physical activity and appears anything but calm. However, there is evidence to suggest that the excessive activity or attraction to stimulating and engaging activity is an unconscious attempt to remain focused and alert. Dr. Daniel Amen's research using SPECT brain scans has shown that the frontal lobes fire slower rather than faster when challenged by difficult or boring tasks. It may also explain why such children often seem to provoke parental discipline and intervention. It is during the moments of adult intervention that their brains may focus and suddenly become more attentive.
In addition to behavioral interventions, Neurofeedback can help people with these conditions by training them to reduce the over abundance of lower frequency (slow and inattentive) and increase the prevalence of mid-range beta waves (calm, focused, and alert mental state). Over time, Neurofeedback trains the brain to function in a more optimal and functional way by resetting the baseline and allowing it to better self-regulate. Traditionally, the other corrective method has been to utilize psychostimulants such as Ritalin, Cylert, Adderal to stimulate the nervous system into a more alert state. Also, some 30% if children do not respond to psychostimulants or shows a worsening of their ability to function. Some adults and children may show improvement with other medications such as antidepressants, anti-convulsants, or even some hypertensive medications. However, these medications can, at best, control the symptoms without bringing about a fundamental long-term change. With discontinuance of the medications, the symptoms return within a short time. Medications may also have a number of side effects that also need be considered and discussed with your doctor.
Neurofeedback offers a safe, cutting edge treatment to an often baffling and frustrating condition. Like any therapeutic treatment, it is not successful in every case but can be help most clients presenting these symptoms. While more severe conditions may require ongoing Neurofeedback training, many can retain the benefits with little or no further treatment within 20-40 sessions. Unlike other treatment options, it produces long-term changes that can often be retained for years to come.
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Alpha brain waves exist within the 8-13 hertz range. While in a predominantly alpha state, we experience a calm, and observant state of mind. Alpha states are experienced are often associated with a relaxed and pleasant state of mind. High levels of alpha for some people can make it harder to focus and be attentive to tasks.
This range exists above 13 hertz and represents differing levels of alert, mid to higher range frequency activity. For Biofeedback purposes, we can only monitor wave activity between .5 to about 42 hertz. The scalp and skull serve as insulation preventing us from reading above 42 hertz without extraordinary measures. The lower beta range is known as, “SMR” which is short for, “Sensory Motor Rhythm.” That lower beta range is between 13-15 hertz and is often the training target of the right hemisphere. The next sub-level is between 15-18 hertz and is often the target for left hemisphere training. Higher frequencies such as 38-40 hertz are used for peak or athletic performance or other goals. Unproductive anxiety sometimes causes higher range activity in the 24-28 hertz range. Over activity in this range might be a factor in choosing to do lower frequency training.
Delta brain waves exist with in the .5-3 hertz range. While in a predominantly delta state, we are usually asleep or unconscious. If clients present high levels of Delta wave activity when awake, there is likely more profound impairment in one’s ability to attend to complex duties.
This term refers to the measurable electrical activity in the brain. Traditionally, this has been done by Neurologists or EEG technicians to measure and evaluate electrical activity in the brain. Often this has been done to review abnormalities such as seizure activity by recording the "traces" or lines that represent changes in the brain waves. Different types of wave form are categorized primarily in Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Beta. (See descriptions in this glossary) In biofeedback, these wave forms are not only measured but used to provide almost instantaneous information back to the client in forms of sound and visual displays. For example, as a stressed person begins to produce more relaxed and pleasant Alpha waves, the equipment shows this. It may do this by providing the sound of violin strings or a pan flute as a computer graphic changes.
Using specialized equipment, clients are able to learn how to self-regulate their body's responses. Like other forms of biofeedback, the equipment continually monitors the body and provides information back to the client in the pleasing forms of visual displays and sound. Unlike other forms of biofeedback, Neurofeedback monitors continuous changes in brain wave activity. The clinician is able to use specialized protocols and electrode placement to help to resolve symptoms or improve physical and mental performance. Early research and application has been done with seizure disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Substance Abusers very often with dramatic results. (See annotated bibliography for a summary of highlights in research)
Theta brain waves exist within the 3-7 hertz range. While in a predominantly theta state, we tend to be less attentive to those things around us and remain inwardly focused or preoccupied. Lower ranges of theta may be associated with emotional upsets, flashback experiences, premonitions, and intuitive states. For those with epilepsy, lower ranges of theta can leave one vulnerable to seizures and children with Attention Deficit Disorder may have excessive amounts of theta and alpha waves that make it more difficult for them to be alert and focused to external events around them. Such individuals may find it easier to daydream or drift away from the task at hand.