Auditory Processing Problems & ADHD

Auditory Processing Problems & ADHD
Washed a broken paint can?You stand in front of your husband. He’s looking you in the eye. You explain that the washer broke today and you need him to call a repair man. He squints at you and asks, “You washed a broken paint can?” His tone is displeased and he glares at you as if you were an alien.

You take a deep breath and slowly enunciate it, “I NEED YOU TO CALL A REPAIR MAN.”

He asks, “For what?” Your head drops. You shake your head in frustration staring at the floor.

ADHD is not just an inability to sustain and direct attention. It often involves a variety of other cognitive impairments. When other conditions occur with ADHD, it’s termed co-morbidity. Co-morbid auditory processing difficulties often occur with ADHD. Attention is a critical component of processing information we hear with our ears. This process can become disrupted when ADHD is present. The ADHD person either hears only bits and pieces of the information, or sometimes the information may seem garbled like multiple radio stations playing over each other.

The dynamics of living with an ADHD person are stressful. Couple that with auditory processing issues and the stress level is often magnified. To be clear, frustration is on both sides; the ADHD husband truly thinks you are not speaking clearly, and you think he’s not listening to you. Feelings of frustration, disinterest, lack of compassion, lack of understanding, and even abandonment sometimes follow.

An ADHD child with an auditory processing condition can also be frustrating. You ask him to go to his bedroom, put his pajamas on, brush his teeth, and get in bed. You go to his bedroom an hour later and he’s sitting on the edge of the bed playing a hand held video game. He never put on his pajamas, never brushed his teeth, and he’s obviously not in bed. Your frustration increases as this behavior appears to be pure defiance. An argument typically ensues. If you understand it’s not defiance, you can approach this situation differently. He just didn’t process what you said after, “Go to your bedroom.” You’ve got to admit, he did make it that far. Multiple step directions are difficult for ADHD persons and should be avoided. Giving simple directions and having the person repeat them often helps get things done efficiently. It will also help you maintain your sanity.

There are steps you can take to improve auditory processing, and they can be life changing. Simply understanding your spouse or child will greatly reduce your frustration, however you can do more.

ADHD does not have to be a struggle. No one knows your ADHD life better than you. No one knows how to improve it better than us. See 800.788.6786

ADHD Attention Deficit Training Neurofeedback Tool | Play Attention
Play Attention is the world’s indisputable #1 learning system to improve attention, behavior, and cognitive function for ADHD children and adults. To avoid any confusion about anything else out there, let’s clear this up:

A Little Play Attention Goes A Long Way

A Little Play Attention Goes A Long Way

Additude Magazine

To Read more:

A Little Neurofeedback Goes a Long Way
One more study shows that controlling brain waves…

Play Attention Rocks New Study

Research shows Play Attention to be highly effective

To read more:

Once again in a randomized, controlled, long-term clinical study performed by the prestigious Tufts School of Medicine, Play Attention has shown to be highly effective.

The results are published in the Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, this month. Play Attention (NF in the article) was tested in 19 Boston area schools and pitted against cognitive training (brain games) and a control group. Here are the high points from the researchers:

“Parents of children who received NF [Play Attention] training reported significant improvements in attention and executive functioning…Parents of children who received cognitive training (CT) did not report significant improvements compared to those in the control condition.

The parent-reported improvements of participants in the NF [Play Attention] condition on the learning problems subscale might reflect important generalization of skills to the academic setting. It is noteworthy that parents of children in the NF condition did not seek an increase in their children’s stimulant medication dosage, although these children experienced the same physical growth and increased school demands as their CT and control peers.”

It is noteworthy that the researchers found no significant improvement in students who did simple cognitive brain training alone. These students performed worse in many areas and had to increase medication dosages over the period of the study. Play Attention produced the exact opposite effect.

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Every week, we offer a free online webinar with the CEO and founder of Play Attention, Peter Freer, MEd. Mr. Freer has presented at NASA and the United Nations. He is co-author of an International Atomic Energy

Immediate rewards and the ADHD brain

A Nottingham University research team in the United Kingdom found that the brains of children with ADHD appear to respond to immediate rewards in the same way as they do to medication. Their research was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“Our study suggests that both types of intervention [medicine and immediate reward/reinforcement] may have much in common in terms of their effect on the brain,” said Professor Chris Hollis, the lead investigator of  the study.

The research team used an EEG (electroencephalograph) to measure the brain activity of children as they played a computer game that provided extra points for less impulsive behavior.

The researchers devised a computer space game which rewarded the ADHD children when they caught aliens of specific colors  while avoiding aliens of designated colors. The game design actually tested the children’s ability to resist the impulse to grab the wrong colored aliens.

To test whether immediate reward/reinforcement made a difference, one iteration of the game rewarded the children fivefold for catching the right alien and penalized them fivefold for catching the wrong one.  All of this was done while activity in different parts of their brains was monitored with an EEG.

Hollis found that the immediate rewards helped the children perform better at the game. This was verified by the EEG which  revealed that both medication and immediate reward/reinforcement were "normalizing" brain activity in the same regions.

Many parents of ADHD children are aware that giving a reward to an ADHD child a week after their good behavior is insignificant to that child. ADHD children respond better to immediate reward, not delayed reward.

"Although medication and behavior therapy appear to be two very different approaches of treating ADHD, our study suggests that both types of intervention may have much in common in terms of their effect on the brain. Both help normalize similar components of brain function and improve performance,"  said Hollis.

"We know that children with ADHD respond disproportionately less well to delayed rewards – this could mean that in the ‘real world’ of the classroom or home, the neural effects of behavioral approaches using reinforcement and rewards may be less effective."

It’s obvious that providing immediate rewards/reinforcement 24 hours a day and 7 days a week would be impractical and impossible. But what does this research tell us? It tells us that if we are to train an ADHD student, feedback, reward, and reinforcement need to be immediate if we are to get their brain to rewire.

We at Play Attention have known this for many years. This is why we integrated immediate feedback/reinforcement for attention training, cognitive training, memory training, and behavioral shaping by using feedback technology. We patented this method years ago because of its inherent strength. While we knew this was the best way to achieve success, we feel research like this rather reinforces our approach. It’s about time the world caught up!

ADHD Medications and Neurofeedback

The Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With ADHD has been one of the longest studies performed on a select group of ADHD children. Recently published in the journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the data are somewhat alarming.

Data from the study were used to evaluate whether stimulant medication effects physical growth in children. The data collected over three years indicates that both height and weight are decreased in children using stimulant medication.

Co-author, Professor William Pelham, of the University at Buffalo, says: “The children had a substantial decrease in their rate of growth so they weren’t growing as much as other kids both in terms of their height and in terms of their weight. And the second was that there were no beneficial effects – none.”

Pelham adds, “In the short run [medication] will help the child behave better, in the long run it won’t. And that information should be made very clear to parents.”

Here’s the most telling observation of the study: “I think that we exaggerated the beneficial impact of medication in the first study. We had thought that children medicated longer would have better outcomes. That didn’t happen to be the case. There’s no indication that medication’s better than nothing in the long run.”

Our good professor, Dr. Russell Barkley just spoke at a national conference citing that medication is by far the best and most trusted method. Unfortunately dinosaurs like Barkley do exist, are respected, and yet completely propagate information that has no substance in current research. Barkley is also a critic of neurofeedback.

On another front –

ADHD Drugs To Be Examined

“Two federal agencies will collaborate in the broadest study ever of prescription drugs for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the potential for cardiovascular problems.

Over the next two years, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will examine clinical data of some 500,000 adults and children who have taken such medications to determine whether they increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

The FDA’s Gerald Del Pan, MD, said case reports describe “adverse cardiovascular events in adults and pediatric patients with certain underlying risk factors who receive drug treatment for ADHD, but it is unknown whether … these events are causally related to treatment.”

The study of all ADHD drugs by class will be coordinated by Vanderbilt University, with analysis by its researchers, Kaiser Permanente of California, the HMO Research Network and i3 Drug Safety, plus the FDA and AHRQ, the government said.”

Curiously, this study has already been done with results published by the University of Oregon. I’ve published the results of this study before, but it was not at all favorable for ADHD drugs. Real data on long term effects, safety, comparative analysis, and general efficacy are lacking. Let’s hope the new study treats the subject with the objectivity and professionalism of the University of Oregon.

As I’ve said in past entries, I’m not a proponent of clinical neurofeedback, and I find there are limitations to some of its research, much of the research, especially research performed over the last few years, demonstrates the possibility that the brain can and will make changes provided it is given the right stimulation. Unfortunately, clinical neurofeedback training doesn’t address other core issues like organization, memory, discriminatory processing, auditory processing, time on-task, and other cognitive skills. That’s exactly why I created Play Attention. It addresses far more than clinical neurofeedback.

Probably most importantly, neither neurofeedback or Play Attention cause any stunted growth, weight loss, tics, or any side effects like medication. From our follow-up with our clients over the last eleven years, positive training effects last as well. Far unlike medication which “In the short run will help the child behave better, in the long run it won’t. And that information should be made very clear to parents.”

How much improvement can ADHD students make with brainwave-powered video games?

From Delta Sky Magazine, November 2007

Attention, not Detention

THE DOORBELL RINGS and Stacey Morrison greets the arrival: Bobby, the seventh-grade son of family friends. She offers him an after-school snack, which he declines, and they both head to the small sunroom of the Morrisons’ house in the central New Jersey town of Metuchen. As Bobby takes a seat in front of a computer, Morrison (at her request, the family name has been changed) reaches for a red bicycle helmet and a spray bottle containing a saline solution. Both bear the words “Play Attention.”

Three contact pads in the helmet receive a quick, enabling spritz. Bobby dons the helmet, which is wired through a Play Attention control unit to the computer. He’s now ready for another half-hour session of computer games and mental exercises that its creator calls a revolutionary breakthrough in treating a widespread disorder. It’s not the games themselves that are so unusual, but the way that Bobby and other players control much of the activity. For instance, players make a frog hop on a lily pad, keep a bird aloft or build a tower using only their brainwaves, by focusing intently on the task at hand. That is to say, they’re paying attention—a problem for Bobby and, according to various estimates, anywhere from 1.4 million to 3.5 million school-age children who struggle with ADHD (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder).

After a short procedure to establish a baseline attention level, Bobby selects Mind Maze for the first of his five-minute challenges. “Remember,” says Morrison, who has taken a seat beside him to serve as his Play Attention coach, “you want to get less than two errors.” Responding to brainwave patterns indicating that he’s focused, the software empowering this short-term memory challenge—something like the 1980s game Simon—sets four colored blocks in a circle blinking in a sequence. Bobby repeats each sequence, in this case using the up, down and sideways arrows on the keyboard. In his 35 hours of Play Attention sessions to date, he has gone from three-block sequences to recalling the order of as many as seven blinking boxes. He has NASA, a boy named John and a former teacher named Peter Freer to thank for his progress.

Freer, founder of a company called Unique Logic + Technology, located in Asheville, North Carolina, invented Play Attention out of frustration. In the early 1990s, teaching fourth grade in a pod-style open classroom, he was assigned a notorious student named John. John’s problems stemmed from ADHD and parents with an eighth-grade education who were even less able to cope with his behavior than the schools were. “I felt for John,” says Freer. “He was not intentionally trying to act out or misbehave. He was just not wired the same as his peers.”

Freer sat John at a desk right next to his own. Simplified instructions for him. Used behavioral shaping rewards. John made incremental progress at school, but not at home. “The parents are frustrated. Dad’s hitting him. They medicate him. Some days he comes in so sleepy he just lays his head on the desk,” Freer recalls. “Some days he’s fairly normal. But it disturbed me—disturbed me that I was totally underequipped to help him.”

Freer, whose graduate work included writing educational software programs, began what he now terms his “crusade” to devise a way to teach children with ADHD how to pay attention to classroom lessons, take tests and do homework. Also driving his quest: indications that as many as 60 percent of children with ADHD carry their condition into adulthood. Freer discovered that NASA, eager to keep pilots and astronauts focused on eye-glazing, low-stimulation control panels, had devised a brainwave biofeedback training system. So he hired an engineer and programmer, and the team made some enhancements to the apparatus to create Play Attention.

The noninvasive sensors in the helmet, he explains, “listen to what the brain is doing in real time. It’s a physiological monitor, like grabbing a bar on a treadmill at the gym that displays your heart rate. When the neurons fire in the brain, they produce small electrical bursts. That’s what’s picked up.”

“Play Attention made sense to me,” says Morrison, who’d consulted with numerous doctors and tried various treatments and mental exercises for her own son Jack, who was the same age as Bobby and suffering from ADHD. (Bobby himself has not received a formal diagnosis of ADHD.) “It’s like having a weak muscle in your body and they send you to physical therapy and you gradually strengthen that muscle. Except, when you tell a kid, ‘Pay attention. Pay attention,’ what does that mean? Attention is not something you can hold in your hand and see.”

That, she stresses, is the beauty of Play Attention. It shows you instantly when your attention begins to waver. “You have to pay attention,” Morrison says. “You can’t just stare at what’s on the screen. It knows the difference. You really have to be concentrating on that bird [to make it fly]. If you stop concentrating, the bird starts to drop.”

Morrison started her son Jack on Play Attention at the very end of his fifth-grade year, continuing his twice-weekly sessions throughout the summer. (Full-featured, professionally supported home versions of the program start at $100 a month. Open-site licenses for schools and organizations are also available.) In early September, Jack’s sixth-grade math teacher, who’d taught him the year before, called Morrison. “He’s like a different kid,” said the teacher. “He’s participating. He’s taking notes. He’s paying attention.”

One strength of Play Attention, explains Morrison, is its ability to target unwanted behaviors. Sitting beside Jack, she noticed that his eyes wandered all over when he first started playing Play Attention. “There’s chair-tipping or, like we’re working with Bobby now, fiddling with things on the desk,” she says. Now, with visible manifestations of behavioral drags on performance appearing on-screen, and with cues from the coach as well, Play Attention users can more easily understand the roots of inattention and begin to rewire their brains. “I know I’m just a mom, and I sound like an infomercial,” says Morrison, “but I’d like to see Play Attention in the school system.”

According to Freer (whose small business received a badly needed $100,000 in 1998 from an “angel” investor who herself suffered from ADHD), Play Attention is being used by some 450 American school systems and in various learning centers in England, Saudi Arabia, China and other countries. It’s also being used to address attention issues beyond ADHD.

While looking on with interest, some professionals remain cautious about Play Attention’s claims. “I think the jury is still out,” says Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York, who notes that the promise of Play Attention still awaits the critical eye of scientifically designed studies.

One such study is being conducted under Dr. Ellen Perrin and Dr. Naomi Steiner at The Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts–New England Medical Center in Boston. “We’re intrigued that [Play Attention] could be a helpful treatment for children with ADHD, either by itself or in conjunction with medication,” says Perrin, director of the hospital’s Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics and The Center for Children with Special Needs. The pilot study, which followed about 50 Boston area middle-school students through the 2006-07 school year, randomly assigned each child to one of three groups: those attending Play Attention sessions in school, those using another computer-based program and those receiving no special in-school program. The data collected laid the groundwork for the second phase of the study, now in progress.

By the time you read this, Bobby will have been weaned off his twice-weekly sessions at the Morrison house. Stacey Morrison, who is not being paid to coach Bobby, describes him as a bright kid who was getting B’s in his accelerated math class when he could have earned A’s: “His mother told me whenever he’d take a test, he’d always get the first problem wrong even though it was invariably the easiest question. I said, ‘Aha!’ Because when he first sat down to do Play Attention, whatever game he chose to do, at first he would always have trouble. But once he got started, he was fine.

“When Bobby started with me and I asked him for his goals, he told me, ‘I don’t want to spend so much time doing homework and getting yelled at all the time.’ He’s now getting A’s in that math class, stopped getting those first problems wrong, and his mother tells me, ‘You know what, Bobby is doing his homework on his own. He’s getting it done, and he’s having more free time.’”

Bobby’s mother has noticed something else, too—something that would please Peter Freer just as much, and an added benefit of Play Attention. “Bobby now looks people in the eye when he talks to them,” Morrison says. “He never used to do that before.”

Not Just for Kids

Other groups and individuals with interests beyond ADHD (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder) are also getting good results from Play Attention (800-788-6786 or 828-225-5522;

Harriet Eskildsen, director of the High Tech Center for the Disabled at the College of Marin, in Kentfield, California, has found it has helped adult stroke victims regain lost quality of life. “My students tell me it’s helped them remain focused for a longer period of time,” she says. “They can go to the movies again and follow a story line. They can return to reading books, and can again take part in conversations, which requires listening skills we take for granted.”

Among those looking to Play Attention for an edge in athletic performance is Bill Tavares, coach of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Bobsled Team. Not only is Tavares impressed by the early improvements made by some of his bobsled drivers, for whom focus on the proper line down the course is paramount, he’s also enthusiastic about what his own Play Attention sessions have done for his golf game—helping him lower his handicap from 9 to a 4 or 5.—J.G.

Neurofeedback, ADHD and Medication

In his Attention Research Update, September 2007, David Rabiner, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist, Duke University, entitled his article, How Strong is the Research Support for Neurofeedback Treatment? The report is rather perfunctory and the staid course he’s followed for years. A fresh, candid review must be performed regarding research on multi-modal treatments, neurofeedback, and medication.

Therefore, my intent here is to examine multi-modal treatments, neurofeedback, medication, their accompanying controversy and myth, and research support. I’m certain you’ll find this examination both enlightening and substantially different perceptively.

I will use some of Dr. Rabiner’s statements and also attempt to make sense of the misinformation that is propagated intentionally or unintentionally through CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder).

For the purpose of full disclosure when writing this entry:

Play Attention

I should disclose that I developed Play Attention, a device that monitors brain activity. It is used educationally to teach cognitive skills, improve attention, and shape behavior. It is not clinical neurofeedback. To be candid, I’m not a proponent of clinical neurofeedback for reasons I’ll describe below.

Dr. David Rabiner

Furthermore, it should also be disclosed that the Dr. Rabiner’s newsletter is funded by CogMed, a group that sells memory games to address ADHD, and Shire pharmaceuticals, the makers of Adderall and other ADHD medications.

Play Attention has paid Dr. Rabiner in the past to advertise in his newsletter. Dr. Rabiner also sat on the advisory board for Play Attention for several years. Play Attention can no longer advertise in Dr. Rabiner’s newsletter due to his contractual obligations with CogMed. CogMed will no longer allow Dr. Rabiner to sit on Play Attention’s advisory board either.

CHADD & Neurofeedback

CHADD is listed as a nonprofit organization, but still receives significant financial support from the pharmaceutical industry. Historically, it has done little else other than offer tips and strategies and support the use of medicine as a primary treatment.

According to Dr. Rabiner’s newsletter, CHADD’s stance on neurofeedback is summarized in their fact sheet on alternative and complementary interventions, which includes the following statement about neurofeedback:

It is important to emphasize, however, that although several studies of neurofeedback have yielded promising results, this treatment has not yet been tested in the rigorous manner that is required to make a clear conclusion about its effectiveness for AD/HD. The aforementioned studies can not be considered to have produced persuasive scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of EEG biofeedback for ADHD.”

Well, if we hold EEG biofeedback (neurofeedback) to this “rigorous manner that is required to make a clear conclusion about its effectiveness for AD/HD,” it is only fair to hold every intervention including medication and multi-modal interventions to it as well.

Quite frankly, you’ll be surprised that they do not live up to this standard either. The actual research about medication is really no stronger than that for neurofeedback. It seems we have double talk here by an organization that receives funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps, given the benefit of the doubt, they just aren’t aware of it.

ADHD Medication Research
While it received little press in 2005, the Drug Effectiveness Review Project, based at Oregon State University released a 731-page report which thoroughly analyzed 2,287 studies – virtually every investigation ever done on ADHD drugs anywhere in the world – to reach its conclusions. To date, it is the most thorough and comprehensive evaluation of all research performed on ADHD drugs.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports report the data to their respective audiences. Fourteen states other than Oregon are the principal financiers the Drug Effectiveness Review Project.

The prestigious Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, Oregon Health & Science University Drug Effectiveness Review Project’s primary purpose is to provide consumers and state insurance plans trustworthy information about pharmaceuticals. The Drug Effectiveness Review Project’s physicians and pharmacists don’t just analyze ADHD medications, so this was not an attempt to subvert or smear that industry. They analyze virtually every study on a given class of pharmaceuticals to determine the best drugs in that class and present their findings to the public and insurance industry. The Project examined 27 drugs which included Adderall, Concerta, Cylert, Focalin, Provigil, Ritalin, Strattera, and others.

In its analysis of published and unpublished research data produced by six prominent ADHD medication producers, the group found that 2,107 studies were unreliable and were subsequently rejected. Now, this is telling in itself. Finding 2,107 funded yet critically poor or fundamentally flawed studies performed by universities and the pharmaceutical industry itself speaks volumes to the nature of that research and those people responsible for it.

The Project began its review of the remaining 180 studies which demonstrated good controls and methods. Its conclusions regarding ADHD medication were quite astounding.

Here, bulleted, are some incredible results with comments:

• “No evidence on long-term safety of drugs used to treat ADHD in young children” or adolescents. Now, if you ask any physician, or the pharmaceutical industry, they will tell you the drugs are completely safe for long-term use based on research. That research doesn’t exist.

• The research providing any evidence of safety is of “poor quality.” This includes research regarding the possibility that some ADHD drugs could cause heart or liver conditions, tics, or stunt growth.

• “Good quality evidence … is lacking” that ADHD drugs demonstrate improvement in “global academic performance, consequences of risky behaviors, social achievements,” and other measures. The common perception is that ADHD drugs do improve academic performance and social skills. Many drug makers use ads depicting this. However, evidence for long-term improvement in academics, social skills, or behavior is virtually non-existent.

• Drug makers have found that they can expand their market by inducing adults into the ADHD experience. However, the Project found that evidence “is not compelling” demonstrating that ADHD drugs actually help adults, nor is there evidence that one drug “is more tolerable than another.”

Furthermore, the Project found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require pharmaceutical manufacturers to compare newly developed medications with medications currently on the shelf. Most companies simply use a placebo or sugar pill given instead of their medication as a control. Therefore the Project found that “good quality” studies are lacking that pit one drug against another to provide evidence of effectiveness. It also could not find comparative data which might help determine which ADHD medications are less likely to produce detrimental side effects like heart and liver problems, depression, decreased appetite, tics, or seizures.

The Project could not find research that clearly provided an understanding of way that ADHD drugs work. It is not well understood for most ADHD drugs.

Even the research on ADHD performed by the respected Dr. Russell Barkley, a critic of neurofeedback studies, ranked only “fair” in the Project’s analysis of research and he’s had significant funding from the pharmaceutical industry, federal government, and universities. Noting that he’s cited most neurofeedback research as lacking, wouldn’t we expect at least a “good” or even a “superior” on his report card?

So, if one chooses ADHD medication, how does one know which drug is safer? Works better? Has fewer side effects? The research isn’t there, so we don’t know. In light of this, the Project suggested that one may do just as well on methylphenidate (generic Ritalin) which is far less expensive than newer options such as Concerta or Adderall. Incidentally, when the Project reviewed research on Concerta, it concluded that Concerta “did not show overall difference in outcomes” compared to generic good old cheap generic methylphenidate. Is Adderall any better? The Project found evidence to be “lacking.”

Do ADHD drugs provide long-term improvement for academic performance? Social interaction? Better behavior? The research just isn’t there.

The Project made clear that its findings do not mean ADHD drugs are unsafe. They may be safe and sometimes useful, but the Project found scientific proof is lacking.

While I’m not a clinical neurofeedback proponent, I think it’s clear that if pundits like Dr. Rabiner and organizations like CHADD are going to talk about good research, then let’s level the playing field and have the same requirements for everyone.

Standards of Research, Dr. Rabiner, & CHADD

Let’s go back to CHADD for a moment and its warnings about neurofeedback.

“Controlled randomized trials are required before conclusions can be reached. Until then, buyers should beware of the limitations in the published science. Parents are advised to proceed cautiously as it can be expensive – a typical course of neurofeedback treatment may require 40 or more sessions – and because other AD/HD treatments (i.e., multi-modal treatment) currently enjoy substantially greater research support.

Now, let’s examine the 3-Year Follow-up of the NIMH MTA (multi-modal treatment) Study. CHADD states studies such as this most recent one and most thorough one “enjoy substantially greater research support.” :

According to Dr. Rabiner, neurofeedback studies, while often producing good results, often lack random assignment. Here’s what he states in his current newsletter:

    Random Assignment

    Imagine that you are testing a new medication treatment for ADHD with 50 children who have been carefully diagnosed. In a random assignment study, whether each child is assigned to the treatment or control condition is determined by chance – you could flip a coin and give the medicine to the ‘heads’ and nothing to the ‘tails’. This insures that any differences that might exist between children who get the medication and those who don’t are purely chance differences. At the end of the study, if those who received the medicine are doing better, you could feel confident that this is probably due to the medicine itself, and not to differences that may have been there before the treatment even started.

    What if you didn’t use random assignment, but let each child’s parents choose whether their child is in the treatment or control group? In this case, it is possible that children in the 2 groups differed in important ways before the treatment began. If children who received the medication were doing better at the end of the study, it might be because of differences that were there to start with.

    For example, parents who chose the medicine might be more willing to pursue other ways to help their child than those who didn’t. The fact that children who received the medication were doing better at the end of the study might thus have nothing to do with the medicine itself, but reflect other things their parents were doing to help them. No matter how hard you might try to rule out these other possible explanations – and I’m sure you can think of many others – you could never do this with certainty. Thus, I might reasonably doubt that your new medication is really effective.

National Institutes of Mental Health Multi-Modal Treatment Study

But if Dr. Rabiner is correct that research without random assignment is ambiguous, possibly not valid, then let’s try to evaluate data from the 3-Year Follow-up of the NIMH MTA (Multi-Modal Treatment) Study. Let’s look at the researchers said about the 14th month:

    Indeed, once the delivery of randomly assigned treatments by MTA staff stopped at 14 months, the MTA became an observational study in which subjects and families were free to choose their own treatment but in the context of availability and barriers to care existing in their communities.

So what are we to gain from the long-term evaluation done in the MTA study? Does it enjoy substantially greater research support? According to Dr. Rabiner’s standards, not if it became an observational study.

CHADD also warns that neurofeedback is expensive. How expensive is it compared to ongoing medication for a lifetime? We’ll that’s relative isn’t it? How expensive is medication to a single mom with no insurance? Heck, to any parent with or without insurance? To grandparents raising their grandchild in mom’s absence? And by taking medication, which is expensive (Concerta, AdderallXR), etc, are we guaranteed anything more than what neurofeedback might offer? According to available research, No. CHADD’s arguments lack substance but have been their common response for a long time. I am asking that this nonsense ends.


Back to neurofeedback…The primary purpose of neurofeedback is to alter brainwave patterns that are presented in real-time feedback to clients. Clients [Rabiner] “…are trained to alter their brainwave activity and taught to alter their typical EEG pattern to one that is consistent with a focused and attentive state. According to neurofeedback proponents, when this occurs, improved attention and reduced hyperactive/impulsive behavior will result.”

Thus, the fundamental premise behind neurofeedback is that brainwaves are dysregulated, especially in certain areas of the brain, and training can regulate them. Furthermore, it is proposed that this regulation improves attention and behaviors. I find this to be rather facile. Neurofeedback’s premise is surprisingly similar to medication in essence; fix these brainwaves and the person is fixed whereas proponents of drug intervention insist that if one takes a pill ADHD is fixed! Unfortunately, neither of these therapies adequately fully addresses core issues of ADHD. Neither medication or neurofeedback, by themselves teach the skills one needs to survive and thrive in the workplace or classroom. Skills like organization, improved memory, discriminatory processing, auditory processing, time-on-task, etc. are not trained through either of these interventions. The only way to attain them is to train and learn them.

I’m not saying that neurofeedback doesn’t work. It’s been field tested as has been medication for years. Could it be a worthwhile tool to be used in a multi-modal plan? Yes. Again, let’s level the playing field.

Current Neuroscience & Neuroplasticity vs. Current ADHD Interventions

The reality about neurobehavioral problems is that they exist in a context, i.e. they exist because of the brain and because of that brain’s environment. The brain is directly affected by its environment. The brain is neuroplastic; it will and does adapt according to the stimulation it receives. That is conclusive fact. No doubt about it. So, if we are speaking about a human being, then attention problems are not just brain based. They may take root there, but they are also directly related to and affected by one’s environment. Therefore, appropriate environmental factors play a great role in the treatment of ADHD including behavior shaping, consistent reward/consequences, structure, etc.

The fact that our current system doesn’t address this fact is where we fall far short of correctly treating ADHD.

Let’s say that little Jimmy demonstrates some fidgeting and inattention at school. His teacher writes a note home telling Jimmy’s parents she suspects Jimmy may have ADHD. Jimmy’s parents take heed and bring him to the pediatrician where Jimmy gets a prescription for medication within 20 minutes. This is the norm.

What’s sorely missing is where Jimmy’s parents or Jimmy’s pediatrician write a note back asking to speak to the teacher to develop a plan of action regarding Jimmy’s behavior before beginning medication. This should be our standard practice regarding ADHD. We need to change the way we view ADHD and the way we address ADHD according to current neuroscience, not how we addressed it in 1980.

Unfortunately, most pediatricians or general practitioners are quite overwhelmed and not well equipped educationally to provide a full battery of tests taking up to four or five hours for an accurate diagnosis. So, a reverse diagnosis is made; the MD writes the prescription for medication and if it works, it was ADHD!

The problem is that stimulant medication works for everyone. If we have two groups of children, one group diagnosed with ADHD and one group of average children, both given boring tasks, both medicated, who will do better on the boring tasks? The answer is: Both! Medication is a shotgun approach that teaches nothing. Virtually no research demonstrates long-term efficacy in social improvement, academic improvement, or behavioral improvement.

Attention is a skill like any other skill. It can be considered a cognitive skill that is measured by behavioral or performance analysis. Should strategies, known to work to improve performance on ADHD students be attempted before medication or neurofeedback? Yes. Resoundingly yes! Should Jimmy’s parents adopt a structured, consistent schedule at home? Yes. Should Jimmy’s parents develop a behavioral plan for school and home working together with Jimmy’s teacher? Yes. Should all of this be employed before neurofeedback and medication? Yes. Could it be employed while using either medication or neurofeedback? Yes. Is it far less expensive than these other interventions? Yes.

Why don’t we do this first then? While a variety of factors relate to the answer, one of the most significant ones is: It is easier to take a pill or to ask someone else to solve your problem than it is to do the work to solve it yourself. Granted, many parents are not trained to work with ADHD children, but they can learn and need to – it’s part of being a parent.

I’ll quote the respected psychologist, Dr. Abraham Maslow –

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Here’s how this quote relates to our current dilemma: Many parents rely on their Doctor’s opinion alone believing the physician is almost all knowing. Doctors, pediatricians included, are sparsely trained to instruct parents or educators on how to facilitate a multi-modal management plan. Instead, as they are instructed from medical school and because medicals schools rely heavily on pharmaceutical money, they are given the only answer: drugs. It is only natural that parents believe this. Unfortunately, neither the medical industry, pundits, or CHADD are familiar with research regarding medication or either choose to ignore it.

Neurofeedback Controversy

Back to Dr. Rabiner’s newsletter, this segment entitled, Controversy Surrounding Neurofeedback Research.

Neurofeedback treatment for ADHD has been a source of substantial controversy in the field for many years and remains so today. Although there are a number of published studies in which positive results have been reported, many prominent ADHD researchers feel that given significant limitations to the design and implementation of these studies, neurofeedback should be considered a promising, but unproven treatment.

I think it’s quite reasonable to say that the ‘controversy’ surrounding neurofeedback is constantly stirred up by articles such as Dr. Rabiner’s. He also says that neurofeedback studies sometimes suffer from smaller populations, etc. It does make good press, but given significant limitations to the design and implementation of studies on multi-modal treatments and pharmaceuticals, they should all be considered promising, but unproven treatments. Neurofeedback research seems to suffer the same dilemma as that of multi-modal and pharmaceutical interventions – all could be far stronger. All have considerable weaknesses. All have some strengths because they’ve been field tested for many years. So, either they are all controversial, or none of them is controversial. It’s far past time to stop double talking.


Neither medication nor neurofeedback are solutions unto themselves.

Without hidden agendas or profit motives they are on the same playing field. Now, let’s play fair and develop strategies based on our knowledge of the ADHD problem. It’s in the best interest of our children and their outcomes to find workable, manageable solutions.

Obviously, no one intervention is best, proven, or more reliable even if marketing people would like to make it seem so. It takes a whole village to raise a child. It takes a group of interventions to raise an ADHD child. Let’s find the best interventions, based on honest available research, use them in concert, and see if it works. And understand this caveat clearly, just because research, no matter how high a grade it’s given, demonstrates efficacy, it doesn’t mean that it will work successfully for you or your child. That’s just because we’re human. We learn differently, respond differently, and are wired differently based on our years of exposure to the world and our genetic makeup. That’s not theory. That’s fact.

Given that no intervention is sufficient by itself, it will always be a matter of trail and error to determine what course of actions will succeed for the long-term. Even though we desire or wish it, none are guaranteed, but that’s life, isn’t it?

Brain Study May Shed Light on Attention Disorders

New research shows it takes one part of the brain to start concentrating and another to be distracted.

This discovery could help scientists develop better treatments for attention deficit disorder .

The study, Top-down versus bottom-up control of attention in the prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices, performed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and published in of the journal Science, reveals that attention may have two forms: willful and reflexive. While this information is not new – cognitive psychologists have written about this for many years – the study finds that these two types of attention are controlled by distinct areas of the brain. Willful attention seems to be controlled by the frontal region of the brain in the prefrontal cortex while reflexive attention seems to be activated by the parietal cortex toward the back of the brain.

Put simply, if one is reading a book, then likely the prefrontal cortex is engaged in commanding attention like the conductor of an orchestra. If, while reading, a firecracker explodes nearby, your reflexive attention will activate from the parietal cortex command center shifting control away from the prefrontal cortex.

“This ability to willfully focus your attention is physically separate in the brain from distracting things grabbing your attention,” said Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Now we know these two things are separate, it raises the possibility that we can fix them independently,” Miller said.


MIT’s research sheds a little more light on the subject of attention because until now researchers have examined only one region at a time. Studying both regions allows us to examine their collaborative interactions, functions, and purposes.

Miller used EEG electrodes connected to the heads of monkeys to examine the complex interplay between the prefrontal cortex and parietal regions during tests of attention and bursts of reflexive attention.

When the monkeys voluntarily concentrated, the so-called executive center in the front of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – was in charge. But when something distracting grabbed the monkeys’ attention, that signal originated in the parietal cortex, toward the back of the brain.


Miller concluded that once the prefrontal and parietal regions signaled each other (see my blogs on neural networks), the electrical activity in these two areas began vibrating in synchrony. However, as EEG specialists have known for quite some time, willful concentration involved lower-frequency neuron activity. Distraction occurred at higher frequencies. This again lends credence to EEG training to produce better attention.

While the study sheds a little more light on the subject of concentration, it examined only two portions of the brain. I contend that the entire brain is involved in concentration. The brain seems to work as an orchestra works. While the conductor is not in command, the players tune and rehearse each of their own will. When the conductor steps to the stage, taps his baton, all the individual players each snap to attention and begin to play in synchrony. It is a metaphor for brain function – our brains are formed of many different parts that perform jobs independently of each other. When necessary, a conductor taps his baton and attention is achieved as the individual parts work in synchrony.

For a person with an attention problem or AD/HD, the conductor is not controllable at-will unless the object of attention is highly stimulating like a three ring circus. A little attention may be sustained if the object of attention is only moderately stimulating, but the other conductor responsible for reflexive attention quickly takes command and distraction ensues.

ADHD persons don’t have at-will command over either conductor responsible for willful attention or reflexive attention. Do we know why this is so? No, it may be caused by a variety of factors. Can they be taught to control these conductors? Absolutely. The brain is very flexible and can compensate. All educational systems are built upon this foundation. So, let’s take this out of the realm of medical mystery and dysfunction. Let’s place it back in the realm where it is a skill that can be improved like any other.

Technology Showing Promise in Treating Attention and Behavioral Problems in Children & Adults

An article from the October 6, 2005 issue of  MONiTOR TODAY!, Ottawa’s Technology Information portal:

Technology Showing Promise in Treating Attention and Behavioral Problems in Children and Adults.

Asheville, North Carolina – It’s a patented technology that is similar to that used by NASA astronauts and U.S. Air Force pilots to stay attentive in the cockpit. An innovative product called the Play Attention Learning System is using similar space-age technology that can now be used on home/school computers to help minimize attention, concentration and focus challenges in children and adults. Through the use of new computer technology, unique one-on-one support and a dynamic training program, Play Attention’s innovative learning system actually trains the brain to pay attention and focus better.

“NASA has proven that attention can be improved through feedback training. Play Attention is actually an enhancement to their technology which is successfully impacting the lives of children and adults worldwide,” says Peter Freer, Play Attention Founder and CEO. The results have been powerful throughout the United States, Europe, China, Canada, Singapore, Puerto Rico, South America, Taiwan, and Australia.

What is Play Attention? The Play Attention Learning System consists of a unique computer software program, a sensor-lined helmet similar to one used for bicycling and an interface unit that connects the helmet sensors to the computer. These sensors monitor the user’s attentive state and cognitive process while he/she interacts with the characters on the computer screen. Users complete a series of video game-like exercises that are controlled, not by joysticks or controllers, but by the brain alone. Through a process called Edufeedback, Play Attention users can see and hear real-time feedback of how they’re progressing in focusing, finishing tasks, increasing memory, and filtering out distractions.

Within a short time of using Play Attention, behavior can be modified to reduce or eliminate disruptive calling out, fidgeting, and impulsivity, all while improving time-on-task, focus, comprehension and more. The system helps reduce the effects of distraction at! home, school and the workplace, bringing life into focus. Play Attention encourages practice of key cognitive and attention skills that, in a relatively short amount of time, retrains the brain how to think more clearly, more attentively and with more focus.

The Play Attention Learning System is much more than computers and technology. In addition to the hardware & software a user receives personalized one-on-one support, motivation and guidance with Play Attention staff members, typically holding a master’s degree or higher. A mentor program for children and adults to insure goals are set and being reached. And free access to, a support site loaded with newsletters, information about the rewards program, latest software downloads, coaching resources, interactive advice from the Play Attention staff.

The entire Play Attention Learning System sells for $1,795, which includes all equipment, materials and training. Complete information is available online: or by calling (800) 788-6786 for a FREE demonstration CD.