MindAlive: A New Alternative Treatment for ADHD?
MindAlive, the manufacturers of audio-visual entrainment systems, or AVE, claim that their devices can help treat symptoms of ADHD in children and adults.
The human brain contains billions of neurons, communicating with each other through electrical impulses called brain waves. These brain waves affect how we feel, think, and act. Slow brain waves occur during sleep and deep relaxation, while faster brain waves help us feel more alert, focused, and excited. Brain waves respond to external stimuli, alerting you when to pay attention, relax, or go to sleep. Not everyone’s brain responds in the “correct” way, leading to disturbances in mood, focus, and sleep patterns.
Those with disorders like depression, anxiety, or ADHD often have lower brain frequencies than neurotypical subjects, perhaps due to an underdeveloped – and therefore underaroused – frontal lobe. People with ADHD, in particular, demonstrate higher amounts of slow “theta” brain waves, and lower amounts of fast “beta” brain waves. In theory, this compromises a person’s ability to focus his or her attention. MindAlive (mindalive.com), a company based in Alberta, Canada, manufactures devices known as “audio-visual entrainment systems,” marketing them as non-medical interventions to correct low brain wave states associated with these disorders.
Audio-visual entrainment, or AVE, is a process that uses a specialized eye set and headphone to produce flashing lights and pulsing tones at specific frequencies. The tones and lights are intended to stimulate brain waves and guide the brain into relaxation, focus, deep sleep, and others. The word “entrainment” refers to the body and brain’s ability to “mirror” environmental stimuli. In other words, MindAlive claims, that, if you’re outwardly stimulated by the target frequencies (through the combination of light and sound), your brain will mimic these frequencies – resulting in relaxation, elevated mood, or increased focus.
AVE is intended to invoke a “dissociative” state, similar to deep meditation. During an AVE-induced dissociative state, MindAlive claims, the brain releases beneficial neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, increasing blood flow and the metabolization of glucose. In theory, these biological processes stimulate the frontal lobe in the same way as stimulant medications, resulting in a positive effect on ADHD symptoms.
There have been studies done on MindAlive’s claims – many of them commissioned or carried out by CEO Dave Siever – testing the efficacy of AVE on ADHD and other disorders. One in particular looked at 34 elementary school children – about half of whom had ADHD or LD – who participated in 38 AVE sessions over the course of seven weeks. ADHD symptoms like inattention and impulsivity improved dramatically in the AVE group, as compared to a small control group. Students demonstrated more alpha and beta waves, as opposed to low-frequency theta waves, and were reported by parents and teachers to be calmer. Some even reported discontinuing ADHD medication after starting AVE.
AVE systems are often less pricey than similar neurofeedback programs. No side effects of AVE have been reported, though experts caution that those with a history of seizures should consult with a medical professional before starting AVE, as the flashing lights may trigger seizures in vulnerable individuals.
MindAlive’s Digital Audio Visual Integration Device – better known as DAVID -ranges in price from $295 to $575, which includes a basic eye set and headphone.