In Study, Neurofeedback Matches Stimulants’ Ability to Treat ADHD

Children and adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a number of treatment options available to them, including behavioral therapy and stimulant medication. The core symptoms of ADHD, which include hyperactivity and inattention, are the most challenging for clients and those treating them. Individuals with ADHD often have difficulty maintaining social relationships and struggle academically. Even very intelligent children have academic impairments because of impulsivity and inattention. Evidence suggests behavioral therapy can be an effective method for treating ADHD, but many children do not see dramatic results. Medications such as stimulants have been proven to provide immediate symptom improvement, but come with side effects. Therefore, it is necessary to fully explore other avenues of treatment for individuals with ADHD.

To this end, Jorg Assmus of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Helse Fonna Haugesund Hospital in Norway conducted a study that compared the outcomes of 91 children who underwent neurofeedback (NF) therapy for ADHD to those who received stimulant medication or a combination of both. The participants ranged in age from 6 to 18 and met criteria for ADHD. The process of NF involved providing clients with visual or verbal feedback on certain tasks in order to provide them with the opportunity to improve their behavior. The NF participants received therapy in a total of 30 treatments over the course of several weeks. Symptoms of ADHD were measured for all participants prior to the beginning of treatment and again when treatment ended.

Assmus found that hyperactivity and attention improved in the participants who received NF. Specifically, the symptoms were reduced to levels equal to those of children who received the stimulant. Although these results could be due in part to the lengthy amount of time the children spent with therapists, Assmus believes that the findings clearly provide evidence of success. “The results of the present study support the use of NF as an alternative treatment for ADHD, especially in the 20% of children with ADHD who do not respond to medications,” he said.

Assmus, Jorg, et al. (2012). Neurofeedback for the treatment of children and adolescents with ADHD: a randomized and controlled clinical trial using parental reports. BMC Psychiatry 12, 107. Retrieved from

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  • Betty

    October 15th, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    So it appears that if a patient and maybe even the parents too are given something that is tangible, something visual that they can really take a look at and guage the improvements in one’s behavior, that this could have a hug impact overall in the child’s treatement process. having something to show them that definitively shows improvement and a marked difference can be very encouraging for most of us, kind of like looking at the number creep down on the scales when you are trying to lose weight. If this is something that really catches on with patients and providers I think that you are going to find a lot more happy kids, parents and classroom educators!

  • rita

    October 15th, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    this is good n all but how often is telling them whether what they are doing is right or wrong viable?moreover,will the children listen to and understand this over a longer duration?

  • Boneh G. Avidor, Psy.D.

    October 16th, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    I could see where this brief article could lead you to that conclusion. However, the behaviors that get feedback in neurofeedback are not those you see at home or in school per se. Rather, neurofeedback involves first taking a look at the child’s brainwaves with an EEG (called Brainmapping). When we know what specific areas of brain function are involved in that child’s difficulties we then give him feedback in real time in the office hooked up to an EEG as he learns to train his brainwaves. Many children do well and after 20 to 40 sessions have lasting perhaps permanent change in brain function. For kids, the feedback often involves a video/audio display or even a video game. That is, they win the game as they better control specific kinds of brainwaves such as alpha and beta waves. I have been watching this for years and now that we are seeing some good research I plan to bring this into my practice.

  • Creden

    October 15th, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    If this is all without medication, then sign my child up! I would much rather take this approach than mre chemicals in their bodies.

  • Georgia

    October 16th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    Is this a form of treatment that will be readily available to patients, or is this something that will only be able to be found in larger cities? Because if this is not something that many therapists are trained to offer then we are still going to be faced with a generation of kids dependent upon stimulants to get them through the school day while doing nothing to help the real issue.

  • Boneh G. Avidor, Psy.D.

    October 16th, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Many behaviors are difficult without feedback in real life. Like trying to put on makeup without a mirror. Or trying to catch a ball in pitch dark. Neurofeedback gives us the feedback to work more directly on the underlying neurological basis of the problem. Very exciting and promising work.

  • rupert

    October 16th, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    a very nice way of treatment I think.not only can it be conducted by experts but also by parents with a little training.I would love to hear some confirmation on this.

    Also,showing a person what is wrong and how he can improve is always better than him not knowing and just popping pills!

  • slimjim

    October 17th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    The verdict may still be out on this one
    if there are methods of treatment that are tried and true, then why start pushing the envelope on something that may just trun out to be a fluke after all in the end?

  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    August 30th, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    Ten years ago I brought NeurOptimal® neurofeedback into my Psychotherapy practice, and I have seen excellent results in my work with adults. My colleagues who work with children report the same thing.

    My very first client with ADHD came in after one of her first appointments and told me that she’d put herself together for work – outfit, makeup – and for the first time ever left the house feeling ready to face the world well. This was because she was able to stay put in her closet and her bathroom long enough to finish the tasks and survey the result.

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