Can neurofeedback therapy offer effective long-term treatment for children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)? This was the subject of research carried out by an international team of researchers that included researchers from the Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen and Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany. During a meta-analysis, they discovered that the positive effects of previous clinical trials lasted for at least 6 months after treatment. In addition, the team discovered that neurofeedback was as effective as conventional therapies such as medication in follow-up assessments. The meta-analysis has now been published in the European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry journal.
Neurofeedback is a computer-aided procedure which can be used to provide children feedback on their brain activity in real time (using EEG). They practise regulating their brain activity, therefore improving how they can control their behaviour. ‘Neurofeedback treatment can take the form of a computer game. For example, a goalkeeper only saves a penalty kick when a pattern is shown on the EEG that corresponds to a particular type of concentration,’ explains Prof. Dr. Hartmut Heinrich, one of the co-authors from Erlangen.
Data from more than 500 children with ADHD from ten randomised controlled studies was included in the meta-analysis. Mainly so-called standard neurofeedback protocols were used in these studies. In the international group of researchers, which included members from Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, scientists with differing stances on neurofeedback worked together to ensure a balanced and critical interpretation of the data.
The results show that children with ADHD still benefit from neurofeedback even six months after treatment. Not only that, there was even a tendency for their impulsiveness, inattention, and hyperactivity to have improved even further. ‘In studies conducted to date, neurofeedback has been shown during follow-up assessments to be as effective as conventional therapies including medication,’ adds Dr. Martijn Arns, a member of the research team from the Netherlands, who initiated the meta-analysis. In the case of other control conditions used in the studies such as cognitive training, significant improvements were only seen directly after treatment and not during the follow-up assessment.
Thus, the results of the meta-analysis suggest that neurofeedback could become a further important treatment option with long-term efficacy for children with ADHD.