Is neurofeedback an effective non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD? According to Dr. Russell Barkley it doesn’t measure-up.
“Neurofeedback does not have convincing evidence of effectiveness for treating ADHD when appropriate and rigorous scientific methods are used.” He wrote this as a means of reflecting a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of research that had been published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Research.
The results reported on 13 trials. The evidence from well-controlled trials with “probably blinded outcomes currently fails to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD.”
Huh…well, that’s interesting.
While I am a proponent of rigorous scientific inquiry, I’m also a firm believer in personal experience. And my experience is different from the results presented in this article.
Six years ago I was desperate. Two years earlier I had been diagnosed with ADHD. I started out taking meds, but I didn’t like the side-effects. All things being equal I kind of wanted to go natural. I did supplements, inconsistent exercise and a lot of hoping. Of course that didn’t work.
And then, two years later, at the behest of my wide, I tried neurofeedback. At first I didn’t have much hope. I stuck with it and, after about six months of treatment, there was actually a difference that I could see, feel and experience.
My Doc, Erik Olesen, explained that neurofeedback was an effective treatment for repairing the flow of neurotransmitters, especially for people that had experienced brain trauma of some type. I came to understand that brain trauma could either cause ADHD-like symptoms, or could exacerbate existing symptoms of ADHD.
I had suffered a traumatic brain injury during my freshman year in college while playing baseball. While pitching in one of the final games of the year I took a line drive going 120 mph off my temple. I took the full force, broke the zygomatic arch, and spent a week in the hospital. They had to wait four days for the swelling to go down before they could repair my broken bone.
Prior to that I had experienced a number of “mini traumas” while playing high school football and from taking the back-swing from a baseball bat to the side of my head when I was in elementary school.
With each blow my brain would take a mild shock and careen into the side of my skull. The line drive to my temple was more like a sledgehammer that forced my gray matter to curl into a Mavericks sized wave that came crashing.
According to Erik the neurofeedback treatment could likely repair the damage these events had had on my brain.
Connecting nodes to my forehead and temples, he would lead me through a series of exercises. I could actually watch my brain waves working on the screen of a specialized PC – and after a few months I could see the improvement.
More to the point, I experienced subtle differences in my behavior. My concentration and focus improved. My emotions were more in check. I was feeling less depressed. I was happier.
Now, was the neurofeedback reducing the effects of the brain trauma, which in turn was lessening the negative impact of ADHD? Was it repairing my ADHD directly? Frankly, I didn’t care.
If brain trauma had exacerbated the effects of ADHD and neurofeedback was reducing this effect, then, in my book, the process was an effective treatment of ADHD.
Had I never had a brain trauma, would the treatment be as effective? I’ll never know. I just know that for my situation it was effective – at least I could experience an improvement overall.
Isn’t that what really matters? My belief is that I was born with different wiring in my head, and only God can actually “cure” ADHD. All any treatment can do is help to minimize the effects of ADHD.
Can neurofeedack help you or a loved one that has ADHD? Maybe it will. I think it depends on the context of your situation. Is it worth a try? I think so – but I’m not a doctor. I can only go on my experience.