In a huge development for the field of biofeedback, researchers* classified neurofeedback for childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as “Level 5 – Efficacious and Specific” – the highest available efficacy rating established by ISNR and AABP. The investigators utilized a statistical technique called a meta-analysis to arrive at the results. Speaking from personal experience, neurofeedback clinicians have long known the powerful effects of EEG biofeedback for childhood attention and hyperactivity difficulties. Research trickled out over the years to provide support of these anecdotal clinical observations, but several recent well designed neurofeedback/ADHD studies allowed researchers to collect a minimum number of quality studies to conduct the current meta-analysis. For example, see Children With ADHD Realize Significant Benefits From Neurofeedback Training In a Randomized Clinical Trial reviewed on this website in February 2009.
In the current study, the primary outcome variables were (1) hyperactivity, (2) inattention, and (3) impulsivity. Fifteen studies with a total of 1194 subjects (prospective controlled = 476; pre/post-test design = 718) were located for the meta-analysis. A majority (88%) of participants were medication free at the time of neurotherapy. Four studies used randomized assignment and 3 compared neurofeedback to stimulant medication (thought to be the “gold standard” in the medical community).
The end result was that neurofeedback for childhood ADHD achieved a “Level 5 – Efficacious and Specific” rating. Specifically, researchers found that neurofeedback generated “large” effect sizes (significant improvements) for pediatric inattention and impulsivity and a “medium” effect size for pediatric hyperactivity symptoms. Another important finding was that neurofeedback was no worse than (nor better than) methylphenidates (a class of ADHD stimulant medications). Thus, parents may want to give neurofeedback serious consideration a front line treatment for their child’s attention and behavior difficulties in light the ongoing concerns of stimulant medication side effects. The validation of neurofeedback as an efficacious treatment, at least for pediatric ADHD, represents an important development for the field of neurofeedback, clinicians, and their patients and may be the first step toward insurance coverage of EEG biofeedback.
Last, this a dense meta-analytic study with much data to mull over. I plan to post several additional, more detailed reviews of this study, including specific statistics, as well as its implications for neurotherapy once I have completely sorted through this manuscript.
*Arns, M., Ridder, S.D., Strehl, U., Breteler, M., & Coenen, A. (unpublished manuscript). Efficacy of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD: The effects on inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity: A meta-analysis. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience.
Brain Clinics Press Release is here.