The Study and Results

New research from Dr. Naomi Steiner at Tufts Medical Center studied 104 children in Boston area elementary schools. All of the children were diagnosed with ADHD. Children were randomly placed into three groups: neurofeedback with brain-wave monitoring, cognitive training, and the control group. Approximately 50% of the children were on similar medications to treat ADHD and change in dosing was assessed over the time. During the study, children received three 45-minutes sessions of neurofeedback or cognitive attention training a week. Six months later, follow up questions were given to parents, and additional researchers went into schools to observe the students. These individuals did not know which group students had been in when they reported their observations.

Neurofeedback requires a child to focus on a computer game that revolves around attention activities. During this time, brain wave activity is monitored to see when attention may waver. When inattention is noted by brainwave monitoring, children are asked to try to refocus their attention. Children in the cognitive training used a computer program to engage them in games or items that strengthen their attention. The results found that kids in the neurofeedback group made larger improvements with ADHD symptoms than the other two groups. Attention and executive function improvements were greater in this group and the study also showed that children receiving this training did not increase their medication dosage over the year. Those in the cognitive training group saw smaller gains and their medication dosage increased along with the usual growth gains of the children.

Impact to Schools

Neurofeedback research is not new. Families have tried it themselves, but the process is very expensive. At about $100 per session, without insurance coverage, many children are unable to take advantage of this. This study is a start to see the benefits of neurofeedback training within the school day may help within classroom. Additional trials are needed to see if the benefits would overcome the large time commitment during the school week and the cost to school districts. If future studies replicate these results it may add another special education service that could benefit children who are trying to learn with ADHD.

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