Technology to Treat Attention Deficit Disorders
August 17th 2005
It is estimated that
over 5% of all children in North America are experiencing at least one
form of attention deficit disorder. Both ADD and ADHD are characterized
by one or more of the following: inattention, hyperactivity, and
impulsivity. Learning disabilities are characterized by one or more
difficulties associated with attention, reading, writing, oral language,
reasoning, memorizing, and problem solving. Further difficulties may
include compromised organizational skills and social interaction.
The question of whether
or not attention deficit disorders can be remedied has received
significant attention from many researchers. Treating children and
adolescents with stimulants (for instance Ritalin), has proven to be
helpful but is limited by side effects and tolerance. The introduction
of Neurofeedback (also known as EEG Biofeedback), has offered new hope
for parents wanting to help resolve the attention related problems of
their children without the use of medication. Neurofeedback research has
shown that training brain wave patterns can remedy cognitive impairment
associated with attention deficit related to ADD, ADHD, LD.
Brain wave activity and
The brain produces
different frequencies for different levels of attention. They include
Delta – sleep state
Theta – between
sleep and awake, also a meditative state
Alpha – relaxed
Beta1 – focused
Beta2 – alert state
Beta3 – very alert,
Beta4 – Hyper
The ability to produce
the right states, especially those associated with focus and attention
is paramount to be able to perform a variety of cognitive tasks such as
listening, learning and processing information, in general. In addition,
the ability to shift from one state to another when required, offers
tremendous mental flexibility, which results in enhanced mental
performance in every area of life.
The Use of
Neurofeedback in Treating Attentional Difficulties
Neurofeedback, which is
a form of biofeedback, has been used for over 20 years to treat
concentration related difficulties associated with ADD/ADHD and LD. In
general, Neurofeedback is a modality which uses an EEG recording system
along with training software to enhance brain wave activity that is
instrumental for improving concentration.
The premise behind
Neurofeedback is related to earlier findings which established that
individuals with poor concentration lack sufficient levels of Beta1
(This band is also called SMR - short for sensory motor rhythms) brain
waves to sustain attention. The findings also showed that individuals
with attention deficits exhibit excessive amounts of slow brain wave
activity, especially Theta waves. Joel Lubar, a pioneer in this field,
demonstrated that treatment modalities focusing on enhancing the
Beta1/Theta ratio have been very effective in treating children with
attention deficits and learning disabilities, which usually resulted in
improved school performance and better behavior control. During
Neurofeedback sessions, the person wishing to enhance concentration and
improve attention and focus, uses feedback coming through an EEG machine
to enhance Beta1 and decrease Theta. After a certain amount of training,
typically between 40 and 60 sessions, the individual is able to produce
more Beta1 at will. Lubar also proved that all children experiencing any
form of learning disabilities demonstrated low amounts of Beta1 waves
and that many of the symptoms diminished after a process of brain wave
can also result in significant improvement of intellectual functioning,
as measured by increases in IQ scores (Linden, Habib & Radojevic, 1996).
Such improvement is most likely the result of the treatment's positive
impact on the person's ability to concentrate. More recently, Monastra
(2002) found that Neurofeedback has proven to be successful in long term
improvement of ADD/ADHD symptoms. In this study, 100 children, aged six
to nineteen years, diagnosed with ADD/ADHD were monitored for one year.
All children received parental counseling, academic support, and
Ritalin. Half of the children also received Neurofeedback training.
After 12 months, all children showed improvement in their attention.
However, children who stopped taking Ritalin and did not train with
Neurofeedback, lost the gains they had achieved, whereas those who also
received brain wave training kept their gains even after they stopped
The use of
computer-assisted programs in the treatment of cognitive deficits is not
Previous studies have
shown the benefits of such cognitive training for treating attention
deficits and learning disabilities. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Consensus Development Conference Statement confirmed that
“Computer-assisted strategies have been used to improve specific neuro-psychological
processes, predominantly attention, memory, and executive skills. Both
randomized controlled studies and case reports have documented the
success of these interventions using intermediate outcome measures.”
Lately, a new
generation of programs makes it much easier and faster to treat
attention deficits. The most notable innovation related to these
programs is that they can provide effective training without clinical
supervision. One such program: SharperBrain has gain substantial
recognition in the area of improving cognitive performance for
individuals with cognitive deficits. This is a language independent
program, which makes it easier for the brain to generalize the results.
SharperBrain directly trains the brain to enhance all levels of
attention in addition to a long list of cognitive skills. SharperBrain
was developed based on research done with EEG based technology. The goal
was to develop a program that can avoid the costly aspect of EEG
instrumentation and to make it easy to use and more economical.
The program works in
two ways. First, improve brain wave activity by enhancing the following
three attentional levels:
1. Calm: Allows the
mind to relax and get ready for different mental tasks. It is also a
state important for contemplation and planning. In terms of brain
activity, this is equivalent to Alpha state.
2. Focused: Allows
paying attention to a specific task, while offsetting distractions. This
is equivalent to Beta1 state.
3. Alert: Allows fast
response when the need to react quickly is required. This is equivalent
to Beta2 state.
SharperBrain trains the brain to develop a variety of cognitive
abilities such as divided attention, multitasking, speed of processing,
working memory, visual/auditory processing and coordination as well as
higher executive skills such as decision making, organizing and
prioritizing. It also trains the brain to offset distractions. Such
skills are not part of the traditional Neurofeedback protocols. Another
advantage of such program is that unlike Neurofeedback, which can be
only administered by a clinician, it can be practiced at home after a
very brief training. In addition, it does not require specialized
equipment such as EEG, making it a very cost effective alternative.
With the latest
research and news about side effects of attention deficit-related
medication, the interest in this innovative technology has significantly
risen in the past year and is expected to continue to draw individuals
interested in utilizing a drug free approach to attention deficit
disorders. Dr. Frank H. Duffy a Professor and Pediatric Neurologist at
Harvard Medical School and an Associate Editor for Neurology, Clinical
EEG Journal noted recently the following:
"In my opinion, if any
medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy it would be
universally accepted and widely used. It is a field to be taken
seriously by all."
A lot has been written
on the connection between nutrition and ADHD. The fact remains that ADHD
is a neurological deficiency. Proper nutrition and supplementation may
be helpful in better controlling this and many other health related
problems, but it cannot fix the neurological aspect of the problem.
Supplements and herbal remedies can have some calming effect on
hyperactive kids, but they cannot teach a child with attention deficit
disorder how to neutralized distractions around them and how to
consistently pay full attention to the teacher while learning material
that is not so exciting for the student.
With the new
technology, Sharper Brain is offering children and adults an effective
option to be able to make the necessary neurological changes so that
they can, perhaps for the first time in their lives, focus and
concentrate when they need it and for as long as it’s needed.
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PhD specializes in is a Neuro-cognitive therapy. He is the clinical
director of Advanced Cognitive Enhancement clinics in Toronto, Canada.
More information about SharperBrain can be found on the official
Keywords and misspellings:
Therapies for ADD, ADHD, LD