Neurofeedback was pioneered in 1924, and its applications have revolutionized neuroscience and psychology. Now, it’s being used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder without potentially harmful medications. The results are promising.
Living With ADHD
There are more diagnosed cases of ADHD in the U.S. than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 have the disorder. About 8 million adults also struggle with ADHD, but symptoms usually appear in early childhood.
Depending on severity, ADHD can affect academic performance, athletic performance, relationships, social interaction, self-esteem and even career choices down the road. Children who have it, especially if they fall through the cracks and remain undiagnosed, are often unfairly stigmatized at school as poor learners, daydreamers or troublemakers.
Boys tend to display externalized symptoms such as impulsivity, disrupting the class, refusing to stay seated, running or hitting. Girls are in many ways harder to diagnose because they internalize symptoms. Some become withdrawn, anxious or zoned out. While boys are more physically aggressive, girls are more prone to verbal abuse such as name-calling.
For children with ADHD, every day is marked by inability to concentrate, frustration and disappointment. It’s not that they don’t want to listen, learn and get along with others at school; it’s that they can’t. Kids who have the disorder tend to be chronically absent. They are twice as likely to be suspended from school and three times as likely to drop out.
The Drawbacks of Medication
Of the approximately 6.4 million children who have ADHD, 85 percent take stimulants to manage it. Scientists aren’t exactly sure how they work or why they are effective for some patients but not others. Hitting on the right type and dosage is difficult. The process is usually one of trial and error.
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Around 20 to 30 percent of patients have health issues that prevent them from taking the drugs.
Some patients experience negative side effects like loss of appetite, insomnia and headaches. A small percentage develop anxiety or social isolation. Many patients describe feeling like they have two separate personalities, one when they’re taking the medication and a completely different one when they’re not. Since the drugs are stimulants, there is great potential for abuse among teens and college students.
Even when they work as intended with no side effects, medications merely alleviate symptoms without addressing the root causes of ADHD.
Addressing ADHD at Its Core
The trained specialists at Neurocore Brain Performance Centers take a different approach. They utilize the latest research and cutting-edge technology to get to the source of the problem. They offer accurate, effective, lasting treatment options.
ADHD stems from problems in very specific regions of the brain. Neurocore performs comprehensive testing that measures brainwave activity. A thorough analysis of the neurofeedback pinpoints specific imbalances in the brain so that, with practice, clients can correct them. It’s a little like professional dancers’ dependence on the mirror: They can’t perfect their alignment or technique unless they can see where they’re making mistakes.
With customized exercises and positive reinforcement, patients learn to nudge the brain, so to speak, when they feel themselves drifting. Through repetition, the brain learns how to rein things back into focus. When that happens, symptoms improve or disappear without the use of stimulants.
Addressing root causes is always best. Medical treatments for diabetes are hardly successful unless patients commit to eating better, losing excess weight and getting more exercise. It’s the same with ADHD. Drugs don’t tackle the fundamental problem.
The Process for New Clients
New clients at Neurocore are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire. The intake process then moves to a series of tests:
• Brainwave Analysis
Brain cells communicate with one another by means of electrical impulses 24/7. The brain is active even during sleep. In an electroencephalogram test, small, flat metal discs called electrodes are attached to the scalp. They detect and chart electrical activity, which shows up as wavy lines on an EEG recording. The EEG exposes problem areas.
• Heart Rate Variability
The HRV test measures heart rate and breathing patterns. The respiratory and cardiovascular systems should be functioning in coordination with each other for good brain health.
• Integrated Visual and Auditory Continuous Performance Test
The computerized IVA test is designed to detect attention disorders. Sensory processing, impulsivity and attention are measured.
• Behavioral Checklist
The Child Behavior Checklist and the Adult Self-Report provide the clinical specialist with a detailed profile of symptoms, social concerns and emotional health issues. A clinical intake discussion is also conducted.
The brain diagnostic assessment lasts two hours. A specialist reviews the results with the client the same day. Using these diagnostic tools, the clinician can target specific problem areas and design a unique treatment plan. Thirty 45-minute sessions are scheduled.
Neurocore is the creation of Timothy G. Royer, a licensed psychologist with a master’s degree in theology. Royer served as division chief of pediatric psychology at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Neurocore maintains eight centers in Michigan and Florida and has plans to expand. It has assessed around 10,000 people for brain-related health problems that typically require medication.
There are two distinct benefits to Neurocore’s methods.
First, the study of brainwaves allows clinicians to approach each client as a unique individual. No two people are alike, so their ADHD symptoms manifest in a myriad of ways. While pharmaceutical remedies are largely one-size-fits-all, treatment based on neurofeedback is highly specialized.
Second, treatment is meant to have lifelong results. Prescribed stimulants may be effective for a time, but they eventually wear off. Also, kids usually take breaks from the medication on weekends and in summer. Many adults try to altogether wean from medication. Symptoms reappear when the drugs are withdrawn.
Treating learning problems at the core is the only effective way to eradicate them. Neurocore isn’t merely a Band-aid. It’s an exact, effective long-term solution.