Adult ADHD & scientific evidence for Neurofeedback Therapy
Neurofeedback for ADHD Treatment in Adults
Research into the effects of neurofeedback on ADHD are overwhelmingly based on child populations. Several reasons for this exist, such as the high developmental neuroplasticity (this refers to the ability of the brain to change its functioning) present in childhood compared to adulthood which may help to optimise results, and ease of recruitment as parents actively seek treatments to improve their children’s well-being. Nonetheless, some studies have been conducted that exclusively emphasise adult populations, in order to test whether neurofeedback can still influence cognitive and neural functioning even after adolescence. The significance of adolescence is that this is the stage where habits are set in, as brain has cuts down its number of neural connections and strengthens its existing ones. If researchers can find clinical effects for a non-pharmacological therapy even after adolescence, then this would provide an extremely strong ground for its effectiveness.
These studies include:
- Mayer and colleagues’ 2016 study of adults with ADHD, who each received 30 sessions of neurofeedback. Outcomes were measured not only on ADHD symptoms (both self-rated and third-party), but also in performance on a neuropsychological task on which individuals with ADHD are typically impaired, and also measured in average amplitude of waveforms related to cognitive functions performed in the task (called an ‘event-related potential’). Following treatment, significant improvements were made in all domains of ADHD symptoms, such that 25% of participants no longer met criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. This was sustained at a six-month follow-up. Performance on the neuropsychological task also improved, revealing improvements in processing speed and sustained attention, and the amplitude of the relevant waveform increased such that it more resembled the neural patterns of non-ADHD populations.
- Heydarinasab and colleagues’s 2016 study of the effect of neurofeedback on working memory in adults with ADHD. Working memory refers to the ability to keep stimuli in short-term memory for processing and mental manipulation, and is a crucial component of executive function or higher-level cognitive ability. Deficits in working memory have been implicated in ADHD. Neurofeedback was able to improve performance on a classic working memory task, suggesting that it improved activation and functioning of neural circuits involved in executive function located in the frontal lobe of the brain.
- Harris, Lambie, and Hundley’s 2018 study of college students diagnosed with ADHD, and who still met criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. All participants received an average of 15 neurofeedback sessions each over a 12-week period. Despite the low number of neurofeedback sessions, participants’ self-ratings of their ADHD symptoms significantly decreased in the areas of inattention, hyperactivity, and self-concept. These effects were sustained at a 4-week follow-up.
Collectively, these studies provide strong evidence to support the effectiveness of neurofeedback therapy in adults.
Harris, S., Lambie, G. W., Hundley, G. (2018). The Effects of Neurofeedback Training on College Students’ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation. Advanced online publication.1-14. doi:10.1080/21501378.2018.1442679
Heydarinasab, L., Yaghoubi, H., Rostami, R., & Kazemi, R. (2016). The Effectiveness of Neurofeedback with Computrized Training in Improving Working Memory in Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity. Yafteh, 18(1), 101-112. ISSN: 1563-0773
Mayer, K., Blume, F., Wyckoff, S. N., Brokmeier, L. L., & Strehlt, U. (2016). Neurofeedback of Slow Cortical Potentials as a Treatment for Adults with Attention Deficit-/Hyperactivity Disorder. Clinical Neurophysiology, 127(2), 1374-1386. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2015.11.013