By Interactive Metronome - April 15, 2013
These alternative treatments — electrotherapy stimulation, low-energy neurofeedback, working memory training, and interactive metronome — can help attention deficit adults and children manage ADHD symptoms without medication.
"People with attention deficit have an interesting brain wave profile,” says Richard Brown, M.D., author of How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care. “Parts of the brain — areas responsible for planning and sequencing, making decisions, and maintaining focus — aren’t functioning as they do in other people.”
Therapies aimed at sharpening those faculties are sometimes required. Read on to learn about four brain training techniques that may help ADHD adults and attention deficit children improve focus and memory, and decrease impulsivity, hyperactivity, and other ADHD symptoms.
A review of studies on cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) by Harvard’s School of Public Health suggests that low electrical voltages delivered to a patient may influence neurotransmitter activity — specifically, the production of serotonin and dopamine, which some ADHD children and adults don’t produce enough of. Brown points out that many studies suggest that CES benefits depression and anxiety. A recent study indicates that CES may benefit those with ADHD.
How It Works CES sends low-energy electrical current — from a small, handheld device powered by batteries — to the skin and scalp muscles. The current changes electrical patterns in the brain. “I see two types of patterns in my ADD patients,” says Brown. “Many parts of the brain are sluggish, while some parts aren’t turned on at all. Other parts are hyperactive. The current balances them all out.”
One of Brown’s patients had ADD, significant mood swings, and learning disabilities. He was rough with kids at school, and he had no friends. He also had a porn addiction. The teen was taking large amounts of Adderall. Brown tried several therapies and reduced his medication dosage. Nothing seemed to help. Finally, he prescribed cranial stimulation. “In a couple of weeks, the teen was a different person,” explains Brown. “He made friends at school, gave up his addiction, and has a clear career path.”
How to Get Started Two companies, Fisher Wallace Laboratories and Alpha-Stim, make cranial electrotherapy stimulators. The low-voltage stimulation is delivered via electrodes or clips attached to a person’s earlobes. Professionals recommend that patients use the device for 20 minutes a day, until you see signs of improvement.
“The devices cost between $700 and $800, but both companies offer a 60-day money-back guarantee,” says Brown. “Most children and adults will see some benefit in two weeks. If it doesn’t work for you, you can return it and get your money back.”
The brain emits different types of waves, depending on whether we are in a focused state or daydreaming. The goal of neurofeedback is to teach a person to produce brain-wave patterns that reflect focus. The result: Some ADHD symptoms — impulsivity and distractibility — diminish. The low-energy neurofeedback system (LENS) works differently: It doesn’t try to reproduce a certain brain wave, but rather enhances the brain’s ability to adapt to a task, whether it be taking tests in school or struggling to get along with friends.
Developed by Dr. Len Ochs, in 1992, LENS has had extraordinary results using weak electromagnetic fields to stimulate brain-wave activity and restore brain flexibility. A controlled study of 100 subjects with different diagnoses — ADHD, traumatic brain injury, bipolar disorder — showed that 90 percent of them did better after LENS.
How It Works. If you decide to undergo LENS treatment, a practitioner will first take a detailed family history and do a brain map. “The map will show connectivity problems — sites that are under-connected and over-connected,” says Stephen Larsen, Ph.D., author of The Healing Power of Neurofeedback and a LENS practitioner at the Stone Mountain Center, in New Paltz, New York. “Some sites of the brain are like a city in a blackout.”
Based on the map, the practitioner will treat four brain sites per session with radio frequencies, produced by a machine to which the patient is hooked up. The radio frequencies will gently stimulate those areas that are sluggish, and will take the edge off high-frequency sites. “Most of the session is spent talking to the patient about whether the last treatment improved symptoms,” says Larsen.
How to Get Started LENS treatments cost between $75 and $150 per half-hour session. For more information on LENS, visit stonemountaincenter.com. To locate a practitioner near you, log on to ochslabs.com.
Working memory is the ability to hold onto information long enough to accomplish a specific goal; you keep a task in mind as you work to accomplish it. Several studies conducted by the Karolinksa Institute, a medical university based in Stockholm, showed that five weeks of working memory training reduced symptoms of inattention andhyperactivity in children.
How It Works When you improve working memory, you improve fluid IQ — the ability to solve problems or adapt to situations as they occur. Most kids who complete memory training become more alert to their surroundings. They are also more alert to social cues. Parents often report that their kids become more “mature.” They take charge of their hygiene and do chores without being nagged. They remember to bring materials to and from school. Seventy-five to 80 percent of kids show improvement after memory training. At six-month and one-year follow-ups, about 80 percent of subjects maintained their working memory gains or improved on them.
How to Get Started Cogmed developed software that trains working memory on a home computer. Exercises are in a video game format, with colorful graphics and crisp sound. In one exercise, a child shoots down floating asteroids; in another, he recalls numbers in reverse order from which they are given. The training takes five weeks, five days a week, one hour a day. The cost ranges from $1,500 to $2,000, and it is not covered by most medical insurance plans. The Cogmed program does not claim to replace medication, but to manage symptoms that meds don’t.
Developed in the early 1990s to help children with learning and developmental disorders, interactive metronome (IM) is used to improve planning and sequencing. The end result for ADDers: increased focus for longer periods, and the ability to filter out internal and external distractions.
How It Works IM challenges ADHD children and adults to synchronize a range of hand and foot exercises to precise computer-generated tones heard through headphones. (The therapy is based on the regular clicking of the metronome used by musicians to help them mark time and keep a beat.) The patient attempts to match the rhythmic beat with repetitive motor actions — tapping feet or clapping hands.
A study conducted at the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University showed positive results in helping some children pay attention better and improve language and reading skills.
How to Get Started IM practitioners teach the therapy to children and adults in clinical and educational settings, including hospitals and schools. The cost ranges from $30 to $150 per session. Visit interactivemetronome.com for more information on finding a practitioner.