For years, medical professionals have been prescribing people with ADD/ADHD psychostimulants that improve concentration and reduce impulsivity. However, the search is on for alternatives because of unwanted side effects, such as weight loss and reduction in appetite. 

Researchers are now touting the benefits of neurofeedback to help treat ADD/ADHD. This non-pharmacological method may improve concentration and reduce inattention and impulsivity, similar to conventional treatment. 

What Is Neurofeedback?

Relies on a brain-computer interface that provides patients with information about their mental state. Systems measure participants’ brain activity, allowing them to directly see their current brain patterns and adjust to accommodate them. 

Most patients with ADD/ADHD have high levels of beta and gamma brain waves – those associated with peak focus, insight, and alertness – and too few alpha and theta brain waves – the more relaxed type. The goal of neurofeedback is to take advantage of the brain’s inherent neuroplasticity – its ability to change – to move toward slower brain waves and better adapt to internal and external stimuli in the future. 

How Does Neurofeedback Work? 

It follows a series of steps. 

Step 1: Set Treatment Goals

Medical professionals begin treatment by setting treatment goals based on the patient’s condition and the type of neurofeedback system used. For instance, the goal might be to regulate hyperactivity so that the patient feels calmer in the future. 

Step 2: Measure Brainwave Activity

The next step is to measure the pattern of activity in the patient’s brain. Clinicians place electrodes on the patient’s scalp and then ask the patient to perform certain activities, such as listening to music or watching a video.

Step 3: Provide Positive Feedback

Once the neurofeedback equipment detects that the patient’s brain has reached a desirable state, the clinician provides positive, reinforcing feedback. For instance, the systems might reward the patient with a higher score on a game they are playing, better music, or a larger movie screen. 

Step 4: Repeat 

Patients typically return for neurofeedback several times to reinforce earlier training. The hope is that patients will learn to “self-correct” by identifying their brain states in real-time and modifying them to be healthier. In most ADD/ADHD cases, the goal is to transition from faster brain waves to slower ones that facilitate greater attention, concentration and peacefulness. 

Does Neurofeedback Work?

Evidence suggests that neurofeedback training can reduce children’s hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. Moreover, research indicates that both of the most common forms of therapy – theta/beta ratio (TBR) and sensory-motor rhythm (SMR) – are equally effective. 

For example, Dutch researchers found that patients with ADHD undergoing SMR got to sleep faster and had higher sleep quality compared to controls. They hypothesized that improved sleep quality and duration resulted from reduced patient vigilance. People could go to sleep faster because they were not so concerned about the situation around them. 

Many other researchers have also investigated the efficacy of neurofeedback. For instance, a 2002 study on a sample of one hundred children aged six to nineteen with ADHD found that those whose treatment plans included neurofeedback did better on measures of attention than those who did not. EEG scans showed that their brain waves were normalized compared to the control group on a combination of Ritalin and behavior therapy. 

A 2009 study with an improved methodology investigated over one hundred eight to twelve-year-old children with ADHD and randomized them to receive computerized attention training or neurofeedback. Over 18 weeks, researchers found that children in the neurofeedback group had lower ADHD ratings than those in the computer-training-only group. 

Lastly, a 2013 study compared the effects of methylphenidate to forty neurofeedback sessions over several weeks. At the two- and six-month follow-ups, teachers and parents rated both groups lower on standard ADHD symptom scores. 

Whether neurofeedback works, however, primarily depends on whether the treatment is the right fit for the patient’s brain biology. Many individuals can change their brain structures, but some do not see benefits because they are not using the correct system for their needs. The specific type of neurofeedback patients receives matters. 

The Bottom Line

In summary, most evidence suggests that neurofeedback helps treat ADD/ADHD. Moreover, it may be as effective, perhaps more effective, than standard pharmacological options. For parents looking to avoid medications, this is welcome news. 


Want to help treat ADD/ADHD? Look no further than The Insight Clinic. We can help with ADD/ADHD and so much more. Start living a healthier and happier life. Contact us today to get started.

neurofeedback help treat ADD/ADHD

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic

Getting Help at The Insight Clinic