Neurofeedback is a safe, all-natural, pro-active approach to learning and behavioral disorders, successfully utilized at my clinic for the past seventeen years.
Neurofeedback for ADD and ADHD
Thomas J. Antone, D.C., A.M.D.
Overview Causal Factors What Can Be Done? Side Effects? Recommended Books
An overwhelming body of research now shows that EEG Neurofeedback Brain Training is effective in the treatment of ADD/ADHD in both children and adults, without the dangerous side effects that psycho-stimulant medication can have. Neurofeedback is a safe, all-natural, pro-active approach to learning and behavioral disorders, successfully utilized at my clinic for the past seventeen years. It is effective because it re-trains the brain to maximize inherent focus and concentration abilities by repeatedly challenging it to remain on-task.
EEG Neurofeedback supports our natural ability to:
• Make appropriate “state” choices throughout the day • Respond to stress without frustration and debilitating mental road-blocks (as in Autism & OCD) • Maintain focus and concentration at school or at work • Facilitate smooth, balanced information processing • Increase the flow of nutrients like glucose, fats and oxygen into the brain by activating “slow’ areas
Without sufficient stimulation and training of particular areas of the brain’s neural network, learning is cumbersome and delayed for ADD/ADHD individuals; concentration becomes labored and attention to task cannot be sustained. This leads to diminished memory and retrieval skills that can result in the “blank stare” seen too often in the eyes of affected children and adults when asked to respond to information that has just been given to them. Neurofeedback supplies this stimulation and training.
EEG Neurofeedback is a safe, all-natural, scientifically designed Neurological Training System, originally formulated in the 1980s by Susan and Sigfried Othmer, PhD, to help remediate the agonizing symptoms of epilepsy. It supports the function and balance of the brain’s right and left hemispheres. It also enhances the normal, harmonious relationship between the brain’s two major centers: Limbic (emotional) and Thalamic (rational). I was trained and certified by the Othmers in 1996. Neurofeedback has positively changed my life and the lives of every patient I have been blessed to work with.
I recommend a conscientiously applied program of regular EEG Neurofeedback sessions, usually following a pattern of three days per week for a total of 20 to 40 half-hour trainings. This consistency will enable the patient to fully engage the brain’s tendency toward plasticity and adaptation 1 via the repeated production of a particular brain-wave pattern who’s output has waned, as suggested by testing with the Test of the Variables of Attention (TOVA). Not only does focused attention return to the scene but there is a noticeable calming and balancing effect as “over-and-under activity” becomes better regulated and the brain’s counterbalancing system of energy use, with a more appropriate attenuation of specific stimulation, is efficiently monitored in the background. As documented in the book, “Healing Young Brains” by R. Hill and E. Castro (2009, Hampton Roads Publishing), these results are unparalleled.
Attention Deficit: Some doctors say there’s no such thing, others say it’s epidemic
Witnessing a child or adult, struggling with learning or behavior problems can be a sad and/or frustrating experience for a parent or spouse. They may often be out of control, over/under stimulated or wildly vacillating between all of these as their inner sensorium is overwhelmed by ungoverned stimulation patterns. Their behavior is often difficult to explain and can easily disrupt an entire classroom or household.
Attention Deficit (and its many forms: ADD/ADHD/LD) is a dysfunction of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and more specifically, the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The resulting inability to process and sort incoming information and stimuli from both the inner (subjective) and outer (objective) worlds leads to the inattention, lack of concentration and memory/learning issues noted above. ADD may manifest as undue passivity and “spacey” behavior while ADHD may exhibit unruly, aggressive or hyperactive behavior.
The Learning Disordered (LD) individual may simply be a slow learner who continues to under perform and achieve for their age and grade-level.
In all these cases, it is apparent that the brain has diminished or lost its ability to make appropriate state choices. This is represented as the individual’s “state of mind” at any given moment. Thus, brain states associated with high activity are carried over from high stimulation periods into those of lower stimulation, or visa-versa. The resulting thought patterns and actions do not not match the moment. Those affected by this disorder, which is not an organic pathology but rather a dysfunction, are not typically “bad” or “stupid” but are usually quite intelligent, good people. It’s just that they may be temporarily malfunctioning.
Causal factors in Attention Deficit Disorder
As a dysfunction of the CNS, Attention Deficit’s specific causal factor is a limiting impairment of the RAS, the center of conscious activity that coordinates learning and memory. Reticular literally means meshed or networked. This system extends from the central root of the brain stem to all parts of the Cerebral Cortex. It is essential in initiating and maintaining wakefulness, introspection and focus while it then directs attention and concentration. Thus it0can be said that the RAS supplies the appropriate neural connections necessary for smooth information processing and clear, non-stressful attention. It is quite possible that there also exists a genetic predisposition toward Thalamic under arousal combined with Limbic overrides; and/or that neural building materials are underproduced during fetal development and childhood. Either way, demands for optimum neural connectivity cannot easily be fulfilled and efficient processing is then lessened. It is important to reiterate that this is a functional issue, not a pathological process.
In other words, neural “software” is malfunctioning and inhibiting proper channeling of incoming information within the brain’s feedback loops – resulting in inattention to certain data and over attention to others. And, neural “hardware” may be temporarily experiencing limited production and unable to keep up with the demands of increasing stimulus or “traffic”. The outcome: New learning and memory are slowed while the demands for management, routing and processing of information cannot be satisfied. These insufficient connections result in existing neural pathways becoming repeatedly overworked and overstressed. This often leads to partial gridlock or complete shutdown so that little or nothing gets processed at all, generating the bewilderment, frustration and/or behavioral problems in affected individuals. These software and hardware inefficiencies can be tracked via observation (during attentive demands) of the overproduction of Alpha and Theta brain waves and the under-production of Beta waves on an EEG trace. Alpha and Theta are more characteristic of early sleep patterns and are obviously inappropriate to a situation requiring attentiveness. So, because Attention Deficit is a functional rather than a pathological issue, my experience has been that it usually responds best to a systems approach rather than a pharmaceutical one.
This limitation can affect an individual’s Perceptual Awareness
Although Attention Deficit is primarily an issue of ‘state mismanagement’ of brain systems (emotional and cognitive), leading to errant brain wave production, it also involves the entire sensorium (vision, smell, taste, touch, hearing). When the brain is unable to manage its states and/or deprived of the optimum neural connection density necessary to process neural traffic smoothly, there is conflict between various stimuli, vying for attention0Competitive stimulation from multiple internal and external sources can create a kind of “Gaussian white noise” effect that is irritating, overwhelming or both. An over taxed system is unable to tune in and turn up some stimuli while tuning out and turning down others. Net effect: Overload. This is brain-state mismanagement at its worst.
This inability to attenuate creates even more noise within the perceptual system and it can become so overly noxious and continuous at times that it becomes competitively assaultive and crippling to any attempt at concentration. Feelings of helplessness and anxiety can become overpowering, often leading to one of two outlets: Shutdown or hyperdrive. For many teens and adults, this can lead to the abusive use of alcohol and/or “hard” drugs and the plethora of their mimetic pharmaceutical substitutes. Its a natural quest for some shelter from the storm.
It is my opinion that, nutritionally, those who suffer the ADHD syndrome of symptoms have ample supplies of Acetylcholine and clear, lipofuscin*-free and unobstructed Cholinergic pathways 2. This may allow them to actively compete with and overwhelm the intrusive, neural-noise messaging. Thus, the ADHD individual attempts to operate at a noisier level via intense hyperactivity, in an attempt to drown out the noise from the overcrowded array of competing stimuli within the brain. This can manifest as random kinetic activity and/or persistent vocal repetition, eye rolling and noise making.
Conversely, ADD and LD individuals may have low Acetylcholine levels and adverse lipofuscin accumulation within their cholinergic pathways, making a competitive response more difficult. When things get too noisy for them, they “shut down”. Cognitive processing becomes limited as a way to avoid and deflect the overstimulation. The aforementioned neural noise assumes a numbing and almost hypnotic property and they literally give up to it. Neural thresholds have been reached0and can no longer be sustained. Thus, unlike ADHD, ADD and LD include this shutdown and tune-out response. This can all become quite aggravated by a chronic lack of sleep and/or too many hours of TV. See page 3.
*Lipofuscin is a lipid-containing residue of lysosomal digestion; a product of the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids. It can be cleared.
What can be done to correct these dysfunctions?
I have witnessed three common and well-documented strategies continue to prove successful, especially when combined: EEG Neurofeedback (featured here), Target Nutrition & Supplementation (TNS) and reduction/elimination of common Network TV.
EEG Neurofeedback Brain Training: Neurofeedback is a safe, easy, drug-free way to resolve these issues at the causal level. By way of three small electrodes, one on each ear and one on the scalp, we selectively monitor and separate four of the brain’s six basic frequencies (Theta, Beta, SMR and High Beta) via an electroencephalogram (EEG). These brain waves are then fed into the computer’s gaming system, where they are ‘fed back’ as a simple video game. This video and audio feedback serves as a training device that directs the patient to continue to successfully produce the desired frequency during ten, three-minute segments. I and my colleagues at EEG Spectrum International have observed that this training works on a functional level, breaking up patterns of rigidity and increasing the brain’s natural flexibility. It does this by improving the ability to move easily into optimal and balanced hemispheric interaction. “It may be this very flexibility – the capacity to move quickly between various basic brain states (such as between alert and diffuse attention or rest and reaction) that is the hallmark of human health and peak performance.” Julian Isaacs, PhD. 3
TNS (a): Dietary modifications, such as the elimination of allergenic foods and the consumption of all-natural supplements that are specifically formulated to help support the function of the Central Nervous System will help the body to balance both neural growth and neurotransmitter production within the CNS. TNS supplies: (1) neural building materials, (2) neurotransmitters and their precursors and (3) an appropriate fund of neural buffers. With proper nutrition and supple- mentation of target nutrients, neural networks can be created and forged quickly, to meet the increasing demands of heavy neural traffic, especially in the pre-pubescent child. Long ago, in Neuroanatomy and Neurology classes, I learned that given the chance, individual neurons can grow at the rate of 3-5 mm per day. And, there are roughly 100 billion neurons and a staggering 900 billion supporting glial cells in the brain. That’s a grand total of one trillion cells to be nurtured and coordinated – more than 100 times the number of stars estimated to exist in our galaxy. These cells exist within a matrix of fatty acids and phospholipids that comprise 1/2 of the dry weight of the brain. Providing adequate building blocks for this ‘hardware‘, while training and updating the ‘software’s’ functionality via Neurofeedback, serves to increase efficiency and operational stability.
TV watching has come under more scrutiny with the release of a 2004 study by the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center of Seattle, Washington. Researchers followed the progress of 2,623 children, ages one and three with various TV viewing habits. The children’s behavior was then analyzed at age seven. Those who watched the most TV had the most attention problems at age seven. Children who watched less than several hours per day were also adversely affected. Every hour of TV watched per day by children aged one through three increases the risk of ADD by 10%, compared to the control group who watched no TV at an early age. “Parents should be advised to limit their young child’s TV viewing.“, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, the study’s head researcher. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that parents not allow children under two to watch any TV, and severely restrict TV for those over two.
Combining these three elements can create an immediate and long lasting change in the severity of the symptoms displayed by the ADD, ADHD and LD child or adult. In fact, I have observed these symptoms completely disappear with only slight dietary changes and moderate TV-time changes when combined with regular EEG Neurofeedback training sessions over a two month period.
Are there any side-effects to the Brain Training?
No. It is completely safe, painless, drug-free, and nontoxic! EEG Neurofeedback Brain Training works to correct the inclination toward inattention by rewarding the simultaneous inhibition of one frequency (i.e., Theta brain waves) and production of another (i.e., Beta). This is accomplished by playing a video game using only selective brainwave activity as the control apparatus. The games revolve around the manipulation of a colored bar and wavelike pattern; “pac man” through a maze; or three boats moving down a river. Nothing is sent to the brain … it’s activity is merely being monitored and interfaced with the computer game. The results are permanent and usually accomplished within 20 to 40 sessions of 30 minutes each, two to three times per week.
Since 1996, at my clinic, the training has been successful within all age ranges and has also proven effective in remediating Depression, Anxiety, PMS, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Fatigue, Headaches, Migraine and some types of Epilepsy as well as improving the spectrum of symptoms that are diagnosed as Autism and Asperger Syndrome.
Finally, there are other specific issues where the EEG Neurofeedback training can be helpful, such as in cases of traumatic brain injury (concussion), and stroke. In these instances the training does not so much get rid of the problem as it simply organizes the brain to function better in the context of whatever injury or loss exists. [See my website for information regarding the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in conjunction with the Neurofeedback to more fully remediated these issues.)
Once you accept the possibility that this training might be effective for you, a family member or student in your class, the next question is: Will this training change who you are? If a child known for his temper outbursts does the training and the rages fall away, he is certainly different but the parents would say, “we have our real son now!” A person should not be defined by their worst features. The training brings you closer to who you really are. That is my experience. And because this training really allows your true self to emerge, others may notice the changes in you even before you do.
Is there a completion to the training? In order to reach a specific objective, the training usually continues for a specific number of sessions. If there is a loss of optimal training effect after completion, due to stresses in your life, a few booster sessions may be recommended. However, just as concert pianists practice more than the rest of us, rather than less, Neurofeedback training can be used without limit to enhance performance. This “peak performance training” continues to be of keen interest to professional athletes, corporate executives, and performing artists.
(a) During our initial consultation and evaluation visit, I will outline the special nutrients indicated in a comprehensive TNS program and/or a referral to an M.D. who will work with you in removing any unnecessary drugs from your life or your child’s life. Most psychoactive prescriptions drugs must be reduced slowly and steadily. The training can proceed while this is being accomplished.
Call 408-358-1366 to learn more about how EEG brain training is the most effective, natural and permanent solution to learning and behavioral disorders.
• “Healing Young Brains – The Neurofeedback Solution” , R. Hill and E. Castro • “The New Learning Revolution”, Gordon Dryden and Jeannette Vos
• “The New Learning Revolution”, Gordon Dryden and Jeannette Vos
• “ADD – The 20 Hour Solution”, Siegfried Othmer with M. Steinberg
References: 1. “The Brain That Changes Itself”, Norman Doidge, 2007, Penguin Books. Also see: “First Direct Evidence ofNeuroplastic Changes Following Brainwave Training”; www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100310114936.htm
2. “Structure and Function of Cholinergic Pathways in the Cerebral Cortex, Limbic System, Basal Ganglia, andThalamus of the Human Brain”; Marek-Marsel Mesulam, www.acnp.org/g4/GN401000012/CH012.html 3. Julian Isaacs, Ph.D, quoted from a Neurofeedback lecture in Los Angeles, CA.
3. Julian Isaacs, Ph.D, quoted from a Neurofeedback lecture in Los Angeles, CA.
4. Pediatrics, 2004; 113:708-713
Neurofeedback for PTSD
Got trauma? What Is PTSD? How Is It Treated? Why Neurofeedback is Preferred by More Therapists
Trauma robs our CNS of any rest. It must be continuously on guard. It does not matter whether the event took place days ago or years ago – our brain has been rewired to cope with the event. That was a needful thing at the time. Now that the event is no longer a threat, we can acknowledge “it’s just history” with our conscious mind. But, we still react before we can catch ourselves, because deep in our subconcious brain we are on constant guard. The well-learned response happens before we know it. Our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies have reacted again, often to the surprise of ourselves as well as others.
Terrified and stuck in a loop! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may occur in persons who have been subjected to traumatic events which are outside the range of usual human experience. Trauma can include abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual), accidents, witnessing something horrific, receiving shocking news, and exposure to combat. Trauma also results from ongoing neglect or stress.
The individual will often live in a state of extreme vigilance with much anxiety, disturbing nightmares, and/or social withdrawal. “Flashbacks” may occur. The flashbacks are vivid, very realistic re-experiences of the event. Often some fragmented image from the traumatic experience is triggered by some current situation which is similar in some way to the traumatic situation. Insomnia, phobias, depression, alacoholism, addictions, unstable moods, nightmares and dulusional thinking may also be experienced by a person after the event is over.
A blow to the head will show structural damage on an MRI. While an emotional trauma will not show up on the MRI the way the physical blow to the head did, however, functionally, the effect is the same: Parts of the brain can shut down or spin into hyper-drive, or both.
At the same time, partial or complete memories of the experience may be unavailable to the person during everyday consciousness. Theories as to why this suppression of the memories would occur vary. One popular view holds that the memory is actively suppressed by the unconscious mind as a means of protecting the individual from overwhelming levels of anxiety that would occur if full recall were permitted. Another theory holds that the traumatic event itself induces a deeply altered state of consciousness which is so far from the normal state that it is inaccessible to the individual when awake.
Conventional psychotherapy for PTSD typically involves several years of individual and group sessions. Medication for anxiety, depression and other symptoms is also routinely prescribed with an open-ended time frame. All too often the client becomes discouraged and drops out of therapy before they truly have resolved their trauma enough to return to a normal life. It’s hard to keep revisiting a destructive trauma in hopes of getting rid of the aftermath!
A powerful form of therapy for this disorder has re-emerged in the last few years. The pioneering work of Sigfried and Susan Othmer, PhD, in the 1990s has recently been validated by Dr. Eugene Peniston at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Fort Lyons, Colorado, and Dr. Carol Manchester in Cincinnati, Ohio, opening a new range of possibilities for those seeking help with serious, persistent anxiety and depression. Due to something called “neuro-plasticity” the brain can literally be trained out of the destructive brain-wave loops that keep the PTSD active. EEG Neurofeedback provides this training, which can eliminate both the PTSD and its symptoms.
Using continuous feedback of information about the electrical activity of the client’s brain, the client is taught to allow themselves to go into a profoundly relaxed, yet quietly alert state. This is possible because certain patterns of brain electrical activity are known to correspond to this calm, centered feeling. Rather than treating symptoms or having a person work through a treatment regimen, the source of the problem is addressed directly – with brain training.
How EEG Neurofeedback Training Works
A computer records EEG activity (brain wave patterns) using electrodes pasted on the scalp surface and on each ear. This non-invasive “listening” device is painless and comfortable. An initial evaluation and assessment of the EEG activity is done. This allows the Neurotherapist to determine the pattern of training that will be most beneficial for the individual. The computer is then adjusted so that a simple video game is controlled as the person begins to generate more of the desirable brain rhythms. This “neuro-feed-back” literally guides the person to a more and more calm and focused state. Clients begin to feel a tremendous sense of empowerment as they take back what they were deprived of by the trauma – a good night’s sleep, feelings of calm and confidence, and a general sense of well-being.
The results of controlled studies, as well as clinical experience with this therapy – since the 1990s – have been tremendously encouraging. People who have been suffering from PTSD for ten and twenty years are often completely relieved of their symptoms. Follow-up testing has shown that the person becomes markedly less anxious, depression is reduced or eliminated, and the person is generally more comfortable and relaxed. The power of the traumatic incident is removed, reducing an all-consuming experience to a more simple, factual memory. Release from trauma means regaining one’s life.
Neurofeedback addresses the source of the trouble: Problematic brain wave activity that got stuck in a disrupted pattern due to trauma. Neurofeedback does not rely on drugs and other chemicals to mask or modify the symptoms. Neurofeedback does not need the client to “relive” the trauma in order to move past it. Neurofeedback addresses each brain individually.
Neurofeedback can accomplish in months what would normally take years: Personal, conscious control of one’s alpha-meditative state and efficient, unconscious background management of one’s moment-to-moment brain state choices (both crucial in resolving PTSD symptoms).