Neuro-biofeedback can treat kids suffering from ADHD: Andhra Univ research

VISAKHAPATNAM: In what could be perhaps the first time in India, Andhra University’s psychology department has conducted a research on the working of brain waves in children suffering from attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

Electrical sensations in the brain were studied to assess the efficacy of neuro-biofeedback (activity of brain waves) and behavioural therapies in children with ADHD to develop an effective intervention programme for kids suffering from the disorder.

The yet-to-be-published PhD study was undertaken by Neeraja Agarwal under the guidance of MVR Raju, head of the department of psychology at Andhra University. For the study, 20 children from Vizag schools aged between seven to 13 years were selected for neuro-biofeedback recording and 40 sessions of neuro-biofeedback training and behavioural therapies were conducted with the involvement of parents and teachers.

The experiment took five months and a week. Out of 20, 15 were found to have ADHD and five ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

ADHD is a learning and behavioural disorder in children due to neurotransmitter imbalance. In India, 8.1% children in the age group of 3-12 years are estimated to have ADHD. The symptoms include difficulty in concentration besides emotional and behavioural problems and in some cases difficulty in reading and writing.

Explaining how neuro-biofeedback works, Neeraja said, “There are five major types of brainwave patterns (network of communication among neurons in the brain that direct thoughts, emotions and behaviour). Neuro-biofeedback uses an EEG to measure this electrical activity. We used an imported equipment from the Netherlands for neuro-biofeedback, in which brain wave information is sent to a computer where information is displayed as a graph or even a video game. It gives the user feedback about brain activity. Through sensors attached to the brain, individual brain waves are measured and the individual is taught to modify his/her cognitive responses through games.”

“The study found that when ADHD kids are treated with neuro-biofeedback, other system begins to improve as the brain wave is regulated. Attention, oppositional behaviour, sleep pattern, irritability, depression anxiety, anti-social behaviour, retention and memory improve. The child becomes less impulsive, less fidgety and fussy with increased mood stability. The improvement in neuro-physiological measures is permanent unlike in the case of the use of stimulant medication. The IQ score increased by at least 10 points,” said the researcher.

“Neuro-biofeedback or brainwave biofeedback is the most promising treatment modality that can facilitate changes in brain wave patterns and cerebral blood flow activation. It is highly effective in treating disorders like epilepsy, migraine headaches, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, PTSD, addictions and so on,” said Neeraja.

The major brainwave patterns include delta, alpha, beta, theta and gamma waves. Excessive delta activity on top of the head in the waking state is associated with attention deficiencies and learning problems. Theta waves is characterised by drowsy day dreaming, inattention, absence of direct thought, partial awareness or a state nearing sleep. Poor theta production in the back of the brain is associated with sleep disturbance, low stress tolerance and pre-disposition to addiction. Abnormally high anterior alpha waves and dominance of theta waves may be present in ADD, ADHD, depression and other disorders.

Too little beta activity in front of the brain is associated with hyperactivity, inattention and learning problems and too much beta activity in the back of the brain indicates anxiety, low stress tolerance, sleep problems or depression, explained Prof Raju.

Co-morbid disorders along with ADHD include bipolar mood disorder, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, border line personality disorder, oppositional defiant disorders and conduct disorders.

ADHD affected more boys, more children from lower income groups and more second born than first and third born, added the professor.