Is Brain-Training the new stimulant medication?

About 10% of children in Australia have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In the past, treatment for ADHD has been limited to stimulant medication. However prior research has shown that the effects of medications tend to decrease after 2 years of use and may also cause side-effects such as anxiety, nausea and difficulties with sleep.

Nowadays it is generally accepted that the most effective treatment for ADHD should be ‘patient-centred’ and involve a range of interventions. Treatments that have also been proven to be helpful include behavioural therapy, psycho-education, lifestyle and diet changes and Neurofeedback (brainwave training). There is no “one-size fits all approach” and families should be able to make an informed choice based upon the range of treatments now available.

 Photo by  Steven Libralon  on  Unsplash

Neurofeedback is a drug-free treatment that uses a sophisticated brain-computer interface to “strengthen” or “re-train” the brain and has been gaining in popularity over the past 10 years. It is recognised by The American Academy of Paediatrics to be an effective treatment for ADHD and is featured in Dr Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain’s Way of Healing”, the sequel to his international best-selling book “The Brain That Changes Itself.”

Research recently published in the medical journal European Child & Adult Psychiatry has added further weight to the evidence supporting Neurofeedback. This research confirmed that Neurofeedback can work as well as medication and with lasting results with little or no side-effects. One of the key authors of the study, Dr. Martin Arns says “This meta-analysis shows that after an average of 6 month follow-up, neurofeedback has a similar efficacy to active treatments including medication, opening the option to use medication more for short-term symptom relief, and using neurofeedback to achieve more longer-term benefit in ADHD, with the added benefit of there being almost no side-effects.”

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Reference:

Van Doren, J., Arns, M., Heinrich, H., Vollebregt, M. A., Strehl, U., & Loo, S. K. (2018). Sustained effects of neurofeedback in ADHD: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-018-1121-4

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