By Madison Shaak, BS, BCN, QEEG-T and Dr. Caroline Spearman Psy. D., BCN
There is a wealth of information available to parents of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Scientific developments and decreased stigma have made it easier to seek individualized help for symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, too much information can actually cause “overload”, increased stress, and uncertainty about what treatment option to pursue and when. Medication has been the gold standard in ADHD treatment for years. Many studies have examined the efficacy of various stimulant medications in increasing performance and reducing core ADHD symptoms. However, not all children respond well to stimulant medications, which can produce unwanted side effects. For example, many children with ADHD have vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can be worsened by the appetite suppressing effects of stimulants (Lilis, 2019). Neurofeedback is an alternative treatment modality for ADHD that uses real-time feedback on brain wave activity to achieve a more focused and attentive state. Positive client testimonials are abundant; however, there is mixed research on the efficacy of neurofeedback in reducing core ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity.
A recent study published in Pediatrics International compared the effectiveness of Neurofeedback (NF) to medication treatment with methylphenidate (MPH). The study evaluated 40 children in grades 1-6 who were newly diagnosed with ADHD. The children were randomly assigned to either the NF or MPH treatment. In the NF group, children completed 2-4 NF training sessions per week over 12 weeks. In the MPH group, children were titrated onto MPH medication and then remained on the medication for 12 weeks. Of note, 40% of the MPH group reported poor appetite, weight loss, headache, and stomachache. The Vanderbilt ADHD rating scale was administered to parents and teachers pre- and post-test to measure ADHD symptoms. Parents of children in the NF group reported reduced inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, while teachers reported a reduction in inattention only. In the MPH group, teachers and parents reported a significant reduction in both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms. Based on these findings, both NF and MPH were effective in improving inattention and there was no statistically significant difference between the two treatments. Medication tends to produce benefits faster, but treatment must be ongoing. Neurofeedback benefits accrue over time and tend to persist after treatment ends. If medication isn’t the best option for a child, neurofeedback could be a viable alternative. By training the brain to function optimally, a child can naturally improve their ability to self-regulate. To learn more about neurofeedback visit the links below:
Lillis, C. (2019, July 29). “ADHD supplements: Are they effective?.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Sudnawa, K., Chirdkiatgumchai, V., Ruangdaraganon, N., Khongkhatithum, C., Udomsubpayakil, U.,
Jirayucharoensak, S., & Israsena, P. (2018). Effectiveness of neurofeedback versus medication
for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics International, 60, 828-834. doi: