Neurofeedback Treatment (Part 1) : Myth or Medicine?

This is the first in a three-part series of personal perspectives on bio-medical interventions we have tried. Read: Neurofeedback Treatment – Part 2 | Part 3


First Hand!

We are one of those parents who believe that we should try anything and everything that can help our son. Probably not unlike most other parents with kids on the spectrum. Even if something does not cure him, if it just helps in one area, in some small percent, that the sum would make him whole.

Neurofeedback was one of those treatments, and it’s the first of a series of bio medical interventions that I’d like to share simply because it’s the most expensive. Hopefully, this is one datapoint that you can use with your research to decide if this is right for your child. We had a total of 130 sessions which makes me quite qualified to offer an opinion!

There are two questions you must ask : is this effective and if it is, who should I go to.  I somewhat researched the first, but not the second since I thought all companies provided the same service, but that’s not the case. Not all neurofeedback are created equal as it’s as much a science as it is an art.

What is Neurofeedback

We looked to neurofeedback as it’s non-invasive, painless and does not require medication. It made sense to me based on the premise that the brain can be “taught” and “programmed”. Neurofeedback teaches your brain to focus better, relax and improve your moods, and claims to have numerous applications for helping a broad spectrum of disorders from autism, anxiety to ADD/ADHD, bipolar, epileptic seizures to even enhancing sports performance.

It Begins with a Brain Mapping or QEEG

A brain mapping called a QEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalogram) is first done to analyze brainwave patterns before treatment begins.  This typically costs a couple of hundred dollars or low one thousand.  There are four different brain wave patterns – delta, theta, alpha, beta – each associated with different functions like sleeping, day dreaming, relaxation and anxiety. The QEEG identifies any abnormal brain wave patterns and then a protocol is set up for therapy to correct those patterns.

For example, in a typical ADD child, there will be too many slow alpha brain waves so the therapy would target those brain waves and speed them up to improve concentration.  It uses special computer software to measure and train the brainwave to correct imbalances in order to get the brain to perform better. Conversely, it could have too many beta brainwaves which cause anxiety, which will need to be slowed down.  After repeated intense training and practice targeting brain waves that are underperforming or overactive, the brain will adapt and achieve the desired level of brainwave activity.

Part 2: Neurofeedback Treatment – Jumping In With Both Feet

Kate M

Reformed Corporate Workhorse. Reuser / Recycler. Blogger. Reader. Singapore Girl. San Diego Mom. Believer.

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Neurofeedback Treatment (Part 2) : Jumping in with Both Feet

This is the second in a three-part series of personal perspectives on bio-medical interventions we have tried. Read: Neurofeedback Treatment – Part 1 | Part 3


Actual QEEG for “Jack”


So, we jumped in with both feet — and signed up for 70 hours of treatment —

The first treatment we did for our son was with an institute based in Irvine. Neurofeedback seemed like a medically-sound approach and is the only one that uses some kind of objective measurement to evaluate the patient’s condition.  We liked the possibilities and the “before” and “after” mapping to monitor the results of the treatment.  As with many parents who jump at the promise of a cure, we immediately signed up with them after our first meeting with its director who’s an MD.  That lent more credence to both the Institute and the treatment.

After the initial meeting and closing the “sale” with us, we never saw the good doctor again.  And I mean it in the literal sense of the word!  As soon as the deal was closed, we were passed on to his team of technicians and counsellors, who assured us that though we do not meet with him, he personally reviews the treatment and protocol to decide what settings my son should be getting.  (The technicians operate the computer system where my son would sit for 40 min each session, and the counsellor is really a marriage and family therapist who would review the case every couple of weeks with us)  Not once did the doctor meet my son.  That should have sent a red flag, but we chose to squash those doubts because when you are desperate you want to believe that there’s going to be a good outcome so you push aside fears and negative thoughts.

We went into it, hoping for some results, not expecting a miracle. Even if it partially addressed one of two problems we would’ve been quite ecstatic.   It did not address the two major concerns we were were trying to alter : 1) attention and 2) anxiety. After logging 9,000 miles in four months – three to four times a week for 4-5 months, 120 mile round trip from San Diego to Irvine each visit, for 75 visits, and some $10,000 poorer, there was no significant, no, make that discernible difference with Jack’s problems.

We had wasted the summer of 2009, dispirited because nothing’s changed.

Part 3: Neurofeedback Treatment – Like A Drowning Man Grasping At Straw

Kate M

Reformed Corporate Workhorse. Reuser / Recycler. Blogger. Reader. Singapore Girl. San Diego Mom. Believer.

More Posts - Website - Twitter