Neurofeedback and ADD/ADHD
Neurofeedback is a great option for children who are experiencing ADD and/or ADHD as it is a non-invasive therapy that is safe for all ages. Neurofeedback can also be used in conjunction with prescription medication and can help individuals slowly decrease their dosage (with a doctor’s guidance) over time.
While medication can be a good option for some, it’s important to be aware of the dangers. For example, most medications prescribed to boost attention or down regulate hyperactivity are generally not tested on children under the age of eighteen. However, they are prescribed to them regardless. And since the rates of attention deficit in children between the ages of four and seventeen have increased steadily since the 1970s, we need to know the effects of such drugs before we give them to our kids.
ADD and/or ADHD is the result of a greater root issue in the brain. Medications can often be effective in addressing the symptomatic responses we notice in behavior and performance levels. However, medications fail to address the root issues in the brain which could further compound the difficulties a child experiencing ADD and/or ADHD experiences and could ultimately result in the loss of memory if not addressed in a timely manner.
Early research found that individuals experiencing ADD and/or ADHD had low levels of dopamine in their brains. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, drives the reward pathway and is associated with functions, such as movement, attention, learning, memory and the firing of the brain’s pleasure and reward system.
To this day, stimulants are the medication of choice used to address the difficulties of living with a diagnosis of ADD and/or ADHD. They have been found to increase dopamine levels in the brain and therefore improve functions, such as paying attention, learning, remembering, etc.
The logic is there: more stimulants = more dopamine and more dopamine = more attention. However, it is important to know that individuals who do not experience the negative effects associated with ADD and/or ADHD also perform better with an increase of the rewarding neurotransmitter. Universally, the effects of increased dopamine on synapses improves attention in anyone and everyone, not just those with ADD and/or ADHD.
The medications that are prescribed are typically methylphenidate and amphetamines. These drugs are used because they have a direct impact on the neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine. The above medications cause an increase of the neurotransmitters at the synapse-level to improve communication between neurons and allow for a better ability to pay attention. And while these drugs can acutely improve attention, they can also create other issues in children, like suppressing their appetite, leading them to possibly become hypoglycemic.
Hypoglycemia occurs when the levels of glucose in the brain, which fuels cognitive abilities, are lower than they should be. For a child, this could lead to an inability to learn and perform both, inside and out of the classroom. The brain needs three things in order to perform at its best – glucose, oxygen and stimulation. If a child’s appetite is suppressed, glucose will not be consumed and the quality of their performance and life could diminish.
Psychotropic drugs, such as methylphenidate and amphetamines, also change the communication at a synaptic level, and recent research has shown that this can lead to serious memory issues in the future.
There are so many changes that happen during development, and these medications could be causing more harm than good. But we can’t just expect a child to lose the medication abruptly. We have to make sure they are ready before removing it from their routine. Neurofeedback helps because it can give us a good understanding of what is going on inside the body, so we can balance everything out in the child prior to them losing the support their bodies have become accustomed to. We need to bring deficiencies up and bring inflammation down, then we can start to wean them off medication.
As more research has been done, researchers are finding that kids with attention deficit have decreased grey matter and increased white matter in their brains. Essentially, grey matter is for processing, while white matter is for exchanging information in the brain.
Picture two railroad tracks intersecting to form a cross. Now, imagine four trains all facing each other at the head of the cross-point with their horns blowing. That’s a lot of chaos, no? This is what having too much white matter in the brain is like: having too many trains on the track, too much information firing at the same time without having enough destination points or grey matter for processing.
Part of the reason that attention deficit has increased so much in recent years is because of the prevalence of devices like phones and computers that impact the developing brain by increasing white matter, remember too many trains on the track. Again, this creates more chaos in the brain while diminishing areas in the brain to process it, increasing the number of children with the symptomatic response of attention deficit.
Attention deficit can be a symptom of many various irregularities in the brain, which means that treatment cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. There could be an increase in frontal lobe activity, a decrease in blood flow, or an imbalance in brain-wave activity on either side of the brain – to name a few. Typically in attention deficit, we see some atypical connectivity which is why it’s so easy for them to become distracted. Attention deficit is also common when a child’s withdrawal reflexes are too high. They can be easily distracted because their survival instinct is constantly activated and takes the first priority to their surrounding environment. Any of these situations could be perceived as a case of attention deficit, but take note – each of these situations have a greater root cause issue.
As displayed above, attention deficit can be the result of several differing root causes. If all of the cases result in attention deficit, all cases of attention deficit can be resolved the same way, right? No! Every case of attention deficit requires a solution tailored to the individual.
Neurofeedback is such a great option because it can tell exactly where in the brain an individual is having an issue and address the root cause of it without creating negative side effects.
If you’d like to address the root cause of the attention deficit your child is facing, or if you have any questions, call us at (678) 501-5172.
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