ADHD News & Research

Study: Neurofeedback and Methylphenidate May Improve ADHD Inattention Equally

In a small study of 40 children with ADHD, teachers and parents reported that patients undergoing neurofeedback treatment experienced a decrease in inattention similar to that of patients taking methylphenidate ADHD medication.

August 20, 2019

For decades, medication has been the gold standard in ADHD treatment. Study after study has examined the efficacy of various stimulant medications in increasing performance and reducing core ADHD symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, not all children with ADHD respond well to stimulant medications, which can produce unwanted side effects. Some, for example, have vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can be worsened by the appetite suppressing effects of stimulants.1

Neurofeedback is an alternative treatment modality for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) that uses real-time feedback on brain wave activity to achieve a more focused and attentive state. Positive client testimonials are abundant; however, scientific research is mixed 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 to medication treatment with methylphenidate. The study evaluated 40 children in grades 1 to 6 who were newly diagnosed with ADHD. The children were randomly assigned to either the neurofeedback or methylphenidate treatment.2

In the neurofeedback group, children completed two to four neurofeedback training sessions per week over 12 weeks. In the medication group, children were titrated onto methylphenidate, and then remained on the medication for 12 weeks. (Of note, 40% of the methylphenidate group reported poor appetite, weight loss, headache, and stomachache.)

The Vanderbilt ADHD rating scale was administered to parents and teachers both before and following treatment to measure ADHD symptoms. Parents of children in the neurofeedback group reported reduced inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, while teachers reported a reduction in inattention only. In the medication group, teachers and parents reported a significant reduction in both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Based on these findings, both neurofeedback and methylphenidate were effective in improving inattention and there was no statistically significant difference between the two treatments in managing this symptom. 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:

https://www.isnr.org/recommended-reading

https://georgetownpsychology.com/services/neurofeedback/

Sources

1 Lillis, C. “ADHD supplements: Are they effective?.” Medical News Today. (Jul. 2019). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325885.php

2 Sudnawa, K., Chirdkiatgumchai, V., Ruangdaraganon, N., Khongkhatithum, C., Udomsubpayakil, U., Jirayucharoensak, S., & Israsena, P. “Effectiveness of neurofeedback versus medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Pediatrics International (2018). https://doi.org/10.1111/ped.13641

Updated on August 20, 2019

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