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The efficacy of biofeedback in the treatment of children with ADHD

The efficacy of biofeedback in the treatment of children with ADHD

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – the number one problem of children

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavior disorder of children and adolescents.

The hyperactive or «difficult» child is a child with high distractibility, difficulty concentrating, failure to complete a task, restlessness, talkativeness, obliviousness, problems with studying or teachers, etc.

According to the researches of domestic and western experts, up to 10-15% of children and adolescents suffer from a neurological deficit, stemming from disturbance of attention.

Attention Deficit Disorder (STD) occurs in two main forms:

  • with hyperactivity (ADHD);
  • without hyperactivity.

Attention disorder is often accompanied by other neurological disorders:

  • impaired learning and memory;
  • tics and hyperkinesis;
  • epileptic syndromes;
  • abnormal and criminal behavior;
  • psychopathic personality warehouse, etc.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a result of special neurological disorders!

If such disorders are not corrected in time, then intellectually, the child will most likely prove to be uncompetitive in the future.

Without posing a direct threat to life, attention deficit disorder is a serious threat to the healthy development of child's personality, development of necessary social connections, intellectual development, achievement of life goals.

The cause of ADHD has a biological basis and lies in certain impaired functioning of the brain.

Currently, teachers and doctors note an extraordinary increase in the number of children with a diagnosis of  «Attention Disorder Syndrome». According to domestic and foreign experts, up to 10-15% of children and adolescents suffer from some form of this syndrome, which has many clinical manifestations.

The physiological basis of ADHD

The term «attention deficit disorder» arise from the broader concept of «minimal cerebral dysfunction» in the early 80s.

This syndrome is widespread among children's population (from 3% to 5%), and is more prevalent in boys than in girls.

Key ADHD indicators (signs):

  • awkwardness;
  • clumsiness;
  • non-assembly (cannot independently complete the task);
  • impaired selective attention;
  • inability to focus on a specific activity for a long time;
  • distractibility, restlessness (frequent switching from one activity to another);
  • loss of belongings;
  • minimal static-locomotor insufficiency;
  • «mild» neurological symptoms.

The difficulties of impaired attention include, in particular, the difficulties of its retention.

Attention deficit is especially evident in situations new to the child when they need to act without assistance.

The physiological mechanisms of impaired attention in children of different age groups in the study of the characteristics of the orientational reaction (OR):

  1. Lacking evidence of OR at a young age is a result of the hypofunction of the ascending activating system due to undeveloped cortico-subcortical relationships.
  2. Lacking evidence of OR at senior school age is replaced by increased activation of the cortex when new insignificant piece of information is presented due to hyperfunction of the activating reticular formation of the brain.

Conclusion: while in primary school age, the distinctive manifestations of attention deficit are its weakness and instability, then for senior students, prevails insufficient selectivity of attention, as a reflection of reduced ability to ignore insignificant information.

Active manifestation of ADHD coincides with the critical periods of psycho-verbal development:

I period: refers to the age of 1-2 years when the intensive development of cortical speech zones occurs and the formation of speech skills begins.

II period: refers to the age of 3 years - the child has an increased vocabulary, coherent phrasal speech is improved, memory and attention are actively developing.

III period (critical): refers to the age of 6-7 years and coincides with the beginning of the formation of written speech, reading, and writing skills. At this age, children with ADHD have difficulty forming learning and problem solving skills.

At the heart of the pathogenesis of ADHD is a dysfunction of brain's behavioral control system.

This behavior control system is involved in the selection of necessary actions, the suppression of unnecessary actions, and switching from one activity to another.

At the present stage, the organization of attention and motor control functions is linked to executive functions concept , or used with the term «control functions». Control functions are responsible for self-regulation, which means self-awareness, planning, self-control, self-esteem, and in charge of:

  • cognitive processes (memory, order and sequence of thoughts, planning, flexibility of thinking);
  • speech processes (speed of speech, verbal communication, using internal speech);
  • motor control and streamlining of reactions (distribution of efforts, following instructions, suppressing reactions, motor coordination);
  • emotional processes (self-regulation, emotions and motivation).

These mental processes and skills are provided mainly thanks to the functioning of the prefrontal parts of the frontal lobes and their connections with the basal ganglia.

Neurophysiological and neuromorphological studies have revealed a disfunction in the formation of functional relationships between the midline cerebral structures, between them and various parts of the cerebral cortex in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as changes in the motor and orbitofrontal areas of the cortex, basal ganglia.

Modern theories as an anatomical defect in ADHD include the frontal lobe and, above all, the prefrontal part, as well as the subcortical nuclei and the bulbothalamic tracts that connect them.

Characteristics of EEG of children with AHDH:

  1. The electroencephalogram of children with ADHD is characterized by a decrease in the amplitude of the spectral density in a wide bandwidth from 9.5 to 20 Hz with the predominant involvement of the frontal-central and parietal-temporal zones of the cerebral cortex.
  2. The EEG signs of dysfunction of the lower stem sections were also detected in the form of increased synchronization of electrical activity in the posterior parts of the cerebral hemispheres, which is associated with a decrease in nonspecific activating effects from the reticular formation of the oblongated marrow and midbrain.
  3. There is a lack of age-related dynamics of the electrical activity of the brain of primary school children with signs of ADHD, which indicates the immaturity of the cortex.
  4. The bioelectric activity of the brain of such children is also characterized by an increase in theta and delta activity in the anterior zones of the cortex and a decrease of the beta rhythm on the 12-21 Hz range in these areas.
  5. The ratio of theta rhythm and beta rhythm among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is several times higher than among healthy children, which indicates a slight slowdown in the bioelectric activity of the brain.

Biofeedback as an effective treatment of ADHD

To date, it is considered proven that the cause of ADD has a biological - brain - basis. Therefore, the treatment of the syndrome is mainly pharmacological with a lot of side effects.

Biofeedback is an alternative to the drug treatment of ADHD.

The effectiveness of biofeedback therapy in the treatment of ADD has been proven by numerous studies by both domestic and foreign experts. Biofeedback therapy is effective in the case of correction of the following ADHD components:

  • impulsiveness;
  • hyperactivity;
  • lack of concentration and self-control.

Scientific studies on the use of biofeedback therapy in the correction practice of ADHD have shown that the biofeedback method is not less effective than that of ritalin or strattera (approximately 65-75%), in some cases the effectiveness of biofeedback is higher than that of pharmacological methods and in unlike neurotropic drugs, it has no negative side effects.

The result of biofeedback for children with ADHD

The goal of biofeedback training is usually to increase fast activity in the beta-1 rhythm range while suppressing theta activity.

In training with the method of EEG-biofeedback, visual, acoustic, less often tactile signals are used as reinforcements. Visual feedback is provided by changing the size, color, brightness of the image and other parameters of the object on the display screen depending on the power, amplitude, percentage of occurrence in the EEG of controlled activity. The visual signal is sometimes supplemented by an acoustic feedback signal.

It is important to note that the success of correction using the functional biofeedback method depends on the emotional, personal and intellectual state of individual.

With severe mental impairments (memory, attention, thinking, will), the effectiveness of the method can be improved by individually selecting images and their contents for each patient.

Many patients who have undergone biofeedback training, have improved their ability to concentrate for a longer time, increased the amount of auditory and verbal memory, and reinforced their mental performance.

This allows us to consider biofeedback training not only as a method of treating functional disorders in a specific system of the body, but also as an active way of self-correction of the intellectual and emotional sphere.

With the advent of biofeedback technologies, the situation with the treatment of ADD   changed in about 20 years, where biofeedback therapy for attention deficit disorder treated thousands of children and adolescents (more than 700 medical centers in the USA provide such treatment). According to generalized statistics, about 50% of them completely got rid of START symptoms and do not need drug treatment. The rest have an improvement to a greater or lesser degree, most often expressed in a lower dose of the drug.

Biofeedback training for children: how it works?

The received data is transferred to a PC and processed by a biofeedback expert using special software to determine the key functional components of the brain activity of the child.

  1. Feedback is formed when registering biorhythms of the brain using special sensors located in a certain way on the child’s head.
  2. Gathered data is transferred to a PC and processed by a biofeedback expert using special software to determine the key functional components of the brain activity of the child.
  3. Depending on the psychoemotional state of the child (low concentration, high excitability), the expert determines which indicators need to be strengthened and which ones to weaken during the correction process.

To achieve this, the expert sets certain target parameters in the software, and the child aims to reach them in the process of completing a task or watching a cartoon. Such game motivation makes child’s brain change the nature of its work towards more stable and functional states.

BrainBit NeuroFit psychocorrection system: Biofeedback training for ADHD treatment

The software enables the psychologist, regressologist, psychotherapist to use the BrainBit NeuroFit neurointerface for psychoemotional correction using the Biofeedback method based on the analysis of biorhythms of the child's brain.

Results from training with BrainBit NeuroFit system:

  • increased learning ability among students;
  • enhanced intellectual activity, creativity and accuracy in performance under stress among health people;
  • recovering reading, writing, and calculating ability (for example, in post-stroke condition);
  • improved mental condition.

More about NeuroFit system

The real benefits of BrainBit NeuroFit:

  1. Wireless technology (the child will not be limited in movement);
  2. No gel (dry electrode technology does not require gel, which greatly simplifies the training process);
  3. Comprehensible Software (easy interpretation of graphs and charts);
  4. Technical support (free technical support for the entire time of use);
  5. Training courses (3-day courses with the issuance of a certificate of state standard);
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