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Neurofeedback: An ADHD Treatment That Retrains the Brain?

di Neurofeedback hasn't yet proved out and isn't cheap, but it dangles the prospect of a permanent cure
By Megan Johnson tratto da U.S. News Health del 10 settembre 2009

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A controversial treatment for overcoming attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is getting new respect. Called neurofeedback therapy, it supposedly retrains the brain to produce electrical patterns associated with calm and focus. While the technique is costly, time consuming, and far from proven, its promise is tantalizing. Advocates claim that neurofeedback brings permanent ADHD cures, a seemingly magical alternative to years of medication.
During a typical 45-minute session, the child is seated in front of a computer. Wires lead from different points on his head. A therapist starts up a videogame or movie on the child's screen—he can bring a favorite to the session if he wants—and monitors his brain waves on another screen. He locks his eyes on the action, concentrating on sending the kind of brain waves that will keep a virtual airplane flying or perhaps a Harry Potter movie rolling. If his attention wanders or he begins to fidget, the car slows or the movie screen darkens, and the therapist encourages him to regain focus using techniques such as slow, deep breathing. As he watches the effect of his own thoughts, "it's like looking in a mirror," says Leslie Sternberg, a neurotherapist and a psychologist in Acton, Mass.
Neurofeedback, also called EEG biofeedback, has been under investigation as a treatment for epilepsy and ADHD since the 1970s. Putting it to use on children with attention deficits has logical appeal. Studies suggest that in ADHD, the brain generates insufficient beta waves, which are associated with focus and attention, and an overabundance of lower-frequency theta waves, produced during periods of daydreaming or drowsiness. Praising and rewarding a child when he steps up production of beta waves by concentrating on the game or movie should therefore teach him how to focus at will in other settings, such as doing homework assignments or cleaning his room. And at least for some children, that seems to have happened.