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How do Doctors Use Neurofeedback for ADD?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Harkin
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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Neurofeedback (NFB) is a technique which involves recording brain activity using an electroencephalograph, a machine which senses electrical brain activity across the scalp while a patient performs specific tasks. The ability to visualize the electrical activity of the brain during NFB allows a doctor to identify specific cognitive processes, and in turn trains the patient's brain to function more efficiently. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a condition characterized by being easily distracted, forgetful, having difficulty maintaining attention, and listening. NFB has been shown to improve the problems associated with ADD by allowing patients to build focusing skills. Sometimes neurofeedback for ADD can replace or help to reduce the medications used to treat ADD.

A session involving neurofeedback for ADD begins by establishing a baseline report on how a patient’s brain functions while performing certain tasks. Using a conducting gel, sensors are placed all over the patient’s scalp to record the electrical activity of the brain. The patient is then typically asked to read aloud, and then play a specially designed interactive video game while the electrical activity of the brain is recorded. A doctor watches the brain activity while these tasks are performed, and determines which areas of the brain are wandering, or lack focus. These inattentive parts of the brain are then targeted for improved concentration using the interactive video game.

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During neurofeedback for ADD, these specially designed video games respond and adapt to the electrical activity from the sensors in the wandering parts of the patient’s brain. Usually, the patient has to manipulate an object, such as a deep sea diver, in a dynamic scene. Concentration maintains the deep sea diver in the water, while lack of concentration causes the deep sea diver to sink to the bottom, or float to the top. Maintaining the deep sea diver in the water is rewarded with pleasant sounds. These games are an artificial representation of the patient’s brain activity, allowing the patient to see their brain function and practice and develop better concentration.

Many practice sessions are required before success is seen with neurofeedback for ADD. At first, sessions using neurofeedback for ADD last only 10 minutes and are scheduled several times a week. Session length is slowly increased as concentration improves. Most sessions do not exceed 45 minutes. Gradually, the patient will get better at the game as the brain learns to concentrate. This improved concentration will translate to daily life as the patient begin to feel better able to focus during tasks.

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