ADHD /ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity) is a chronic and pervasive developmental condition that presents as problems with sustained attention, impulse control and activity regulation. These symptoms can be very disruptive to the person suffering from ADHD/ ADD, as well as to the people around them. Individuals suffering from ADHD may also present with co-morbid conditions, such as depression; anxiety or mood regulation problems and even insomnia. The majority of children with ADHD underachieve academically, even though they might be of higher intelligence. ADHD /ADD persists into adulthood, but may impact adults differently in their lives.
Prevalence and causes
Often, we hear of children and adults suffering from ADHD. South Africa has been found to have one of the highest rates of prescribing medication for ADHD. Although international trends have moved towards alternative treatments for ADHD to medication, this does not seem to be the case in South Africa. Why is South Africa not keeping up with these trends?
The exact cause of ADHD is difficult to determine, while research on this topic is extensive. We do however know that it is neurologically based (mainly frontal lobe); while it is a strongly inherited genetic condition. Research has shown that ADHD (and its related symptoms) occur as a result of demonstrable differences with-in the brain wave functioning of the individual suffering from this condition.
Neurofeedback training for ADHD related symptoms
Neurofeedback training is based on the premise that physiological symptoms are related to dysfunctional brainwave activity in specific regions of the brain; which would correlate with certain neuropsychological functions which in turn is noticeable in every day functioning . Hence, neurofeedback training allows clients to bring about alleviation of physiological symptoms through changing and controlling their own brainwave activity and/or cerebral blood flow. This is achieved by providing real-time visual and auditory feedback of brainwave activity.
Qualitative Electroencephalographs (QEEG) are used in order to identify the specific brainwave patterns that needs to be addressed in training. Neurofeedback training starts with recording a client’s electrical neuronal activity on a particular site or a group of sites by means of an electroencephalography (EEG). Once the neurofeedback training process commences, the identified sites are used. Next, the various brainwave frequencies, which are related to various physiological functions, are displayed to the client by means of an online feedback loop. This is done in the form of visual or audio feedback, or a combination thereof. This allows the client to become aware of the changes that occur with-in these frequency ranges, which in turn allows him/her to adjust them.
As ADHD is neurologically based, prognosis for neurofeedback training is good. A wide range of areas of the brain play a role in ADHD. Most researchers target the cingulate gyrus, the prefrontal lobes (which forms part of the cingulate gyrus) and the sensorimotor cortex. In a high percentage of people struggling with ADHD, these areas seem to have excess slow brainwaves, and too little fast brainwaves. These deviances in brainwave activity of individuals with ADHD are visible as symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
ADHD has been researched more than any other disorder by neurofeedback specialists, with promising results. A meta-analysis has found that neurofeedback training should be given the highest level of efficacy for the treatment of ADHD related symptoms. Some even regard neurofeedback training as more efficient than medication. The main reason for this is that neurofeedback training has long lasting effects even after training has been discontinued; while it does not cause the side-effects that medication may cause. Why not give neurofeedback training a try?