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Using neurofeedback to treat ADHD

Heather Rudow February 21, 2013

LoriLong

Attendees of next month’s 2013 American Counseling Association Conference & Expo in Cincinnati will be treated to a new series of conference sessions aimed at shedding light on research by ACA members on topics that uniquely benefit clients. 

Called the Client-Focused Research Series, these 30-minute presentations aim to increase awareness of research that focuses on improving the services that professional counselors provide to clients.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, Counseling Today is speaking with some of the presenters about their research and why they believe it is important to the enhancement of the profession. Next up is Lori A. Russell-Chapin, professor of counselor education and associate dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences at Bradley University. Russell-Chapin, who is also co-director of the Center for Collaborative Brain Research and a member of the Association for Creativity in Counseling and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, will be presenting with Theodore J. Chapin on “A Pilot Study of Neurofeedback, fMRI and the Default Mode Network: Implications for the Treatment of ADHD.”

What would you like attendees to take away from your session?

Counselors need to better understand that there is another noninvasive method for the treatment of psychological and behavioral symptoms. Neurofeedback (NFB) is that other option, in addition to counseling and medication. Neurofeedback, a type of neuromodulation, helps to regulate the brain and helps it to perform in a more efficient and effective manner. NFB works with computerized software, an electroencephalograph (EEG) instrument and the principles of operant and classical conditioning to help normalize and strengthen dysregulated brainwaves.

Counselors also need to better understand the importance and role that neuroscience must play in our everyday counseling lives. What we now know about the brain enhances and changes how we conduct counseling. I have been telling our graduate students for years that understanding the brain will change how we do counseling. That knowledge has arrived, and we counselors must understand and utilize those fascinating results. It only makes us more competent in our trade.

How did you first get involved with studying attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Whenever I would go into the school system to help our student counselors, there always seemed to be so many young children who had symptoms of ADHD. In our private practice it is also a prevalent concern. ADHD is the most common childhood psychiatric disorder, with a cumulative incidence reaching 7.5 percent by age 19 (Barbaresi, Katusic, Colligan, Weaver, Pankratz & Mrazek, 2004). 

Why did you decide to perform this study?

According to Konrad and Eickhoff (2010), there has been a shift of focus from regional brain pathology in children with ADHD to dysfunction in distributed network organization. Because of that belief, I took the opportunity to write a proposal for monies through our Center for Collaborative Brain Research. Our team of researchers did pre- and post-tests with fMRIs to test the ADHD hypothesis of the dysfunctional distributed network. Neuroimaging provides researchers much more advanced methods of understanding the brain and its functions and structures.

What surprised you most as you compiled your results?

Our research team certainly wanted to validate and replicate the efficacy of NFB in the treatment of ADHD, which we were able to state. However, in our pilot study, finding that the Default Mode Network (DMN) was consolidated and, even more importantly, normalized to some extent after 40 sessions of NFB was exciting and remarkable. Many researchers believe that the DMN is essential to our everyday functioning especially in the world of subjective, internal functioning of the environment around us. Often children with ADHD have great difficulty activating the DMN during a resting state or quiet time. The post-fMRIs showed that activation during the resting state after 40 NFB sessions.

Why do you feel this kind of ADHD research is important?

Further advancing knowledge is always an important reason to conduct research. Taking that knowledge and being able to offer those results to children and parents as another type of treatment for ADHD that is intrinsic, noninvasive and long-lasting is a “breath of fresh air” compared to the many side effects of stimulant medications.

Who do you feel is the best audience for this session?

Our workshop would be appropriate for any counselor who wants to know more about additional treatments for children with ADHD. It is just fascinating to see the brain results that the advancements in neuroscience offer. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have been providing individual counseling for several decades. I know counseling works and helps people change their lives. My neurotherapy and neurofeedback training has changed how I conduct counseling and my view of the counseling world. It has strengthened my skills and helped me have better outcomes for my clients.

 Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at hrudow@counseling.org.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Gary Ames

    Welcome to neurofeedback! I’ve been doing it for 10 years and love it! The best research is for ADHD and seizures, but neurofeedback also works very well for the broad range of conditions seen by counselors: anxiety, addictions, anorexia, and autism covers some of the the “A”s.
    The 2 big professional societies are http://www.ISNR.org and http://www.AAPB.org. Getting started with biofeedback can be easy with heart rate variability HRV training. You already know the benefit of good breathing, Either StressEraser or EmWave have nice hand-held devices to build emotional stress resilience.
    But even stronger results come with brain wave biofeedback training. There a variety of camps about exactly how to do neurofeedback, fortunately they all work well.
    Dive in and take some sessions with a provider near you.
    Call me if you want some advice. 610.668-3223
    Gary Ames

    Reply
  2. Genelia

    I am an ADHD teen, and my mental health expert told me about neurofeeback, but this is the first post i am reading about this.
    The above experience shared shows the real results of using it.

    I am gonna experience it too.

    Thanks for sharing…

    Reply

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