For many years there have been tantalizing studies purporting to show that neurofeedback (NFB) improves symptoms of ADHD, with lasting effects after treatment is finished. NFB has focused on minimizing slow EEG waves (theta) and increasing fast waves (Beta).
Unfortunately all of the studies have suffered from methodological limitations of one sort or another, with the most common fault being that the control groups are non-blinded, so the clinical observations by parents or others can be biased by knowledge of which treatment the child received. It has been very difficult to provide a sham treatment that is not obviously apparent to observers or EEG managers who measure the outcome.
A recent study by Steiner and colleagues provides an excellent example. Their study was unique in that it took place in the school system, where the patients or controls received three times weekly training. The ADHD experimental group received the NFB training, while the control group received a computer-based attention training program. Both groups were examined by direct obseervations in the classroom as well as by the Conners Rating Scales by parents. The results, even 6 months later. showed superiority of response on the rating scales for the NFB treatment.
But note that the direct classroom measures showed no difference. The controls were obviously different in appearance to the raters as well as known by the EEG managers.Fortunately, these kinds of limitations have been apparent to others, and recently a new study was funded by NIMH that has introduced sophisticated controls in the form of a "sham" treatment where even the EEG technicians cannot be aware of which group is getting the real treatment. Dr Gene Arnold and a team of exerienced NFB trainers will carry out the study with consutation from outside statistical experts. This new study should once and for all show whether NFB has SPECFC lasting effects for ADHD chidren.