Kids With ADHD and 'Brain Wave' Training in School
But experts agree more research is needed to see if that translates into better classroom performance
By Mary Brophy Marcus
MONDAY, Feb. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may benefit from getting a type of training during school hours that monitors their brain waves to help improve attention.
The study involved 104 elementary school children with ADHD who were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a brain-wave monitoring ("neurofeedback") group; a cognitive attention training group; and a "control" group.
The students attended one of 19 public elementary schools in the greater Boston area. They received three 45-minute sessions per week of either neurofeedback training or cognitive attention training, while the control group received no treatment. Six months later, the researchers followed up on the kids with parent questionnaires and classroom observations made by researchers who did not know which child had received which treatment.
Neurofeedback involves measuring and giving feedback on a child's brain wave activity while the child "plays" or focuses on a computer game revolving around attention activities. The child is asked to try to focus every time feedback information indicates that attention is wavering.
Cognitive training involves a computer program that engages students in games or activities that strengthen attention.
Neurofeedback has been studied in children with ADHD in the past, and is controversial, noted study author Dr. Naomi Steiner, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
The study team found that the kids who were given neurofeedback training made greater improvements in their ADHD symptoms, compared to the other two groups. The findings were published online Feb. 17 and in the March print issue of Pediatrics.
"They showed significant improvements in attention and executive function. This study suggests that neurofeedback works, and you can actually do it in schools," Steiner said.
"The cognitive attention training group improved a little bit but not as much as the neurofeedback group, and not on as many scales," she added.
An estimated 9.5 percent of U.S. children aged 4 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD, a disorder that leaves kids struggling with attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity issues, according to the authors.