Are drugs the best possible treatment for children diagnosed with ADHD? A new study aims to find out if and how Neurofeedback could mitigate the role of the pill bottle in contemporary ADHD treatment.
Now, a research team at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center is using video therapy to teach children how to control their symptoms, just by using their minds. It’s the first large clinical trial in what’s called neurofeedback.
All of the stakeholders — young participants, their parents, and medical researchers — are hoping it provides an alternative to medication.
Neurofeedback is a promising new strategy. While this study involves video reinforcement, previous studies have seen neurofeedback trainers using electroencephalographic sensors embedded in a bicycle helmet to increase subjects’ beta waves (an attentive state) and to suppress theta waves (a drowsy state) when viewing their brain waves on a computer screen. The operating principle is to introduce cognitive exercises that focus on attention and working memory. Computer-generated feedback helps reinforce correct responses.
A recent story on the study, posted by ABC News, included the viewpoints of a young study participant and his parent.
“I think he’s perfectly capable of doing a lot of these things on his own,” said Giti Coons about her son, Devin. “And I think this study has the potential of helping him see that.”
Devin himself is upbeat.
“The medicine definitely helps, but I would love to get off it and be my own person.”
Researchers say more than $100 billion is spent each year treating the more than six million youngsters in the U.S. currently diagnosed with ADHD. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures underscore the economic cost. Using a prevalence rate of 5 percent, the CDC estimates the annual societal ‘‘cost of illness’’ for ADHD to be between $36 and $52 billion (2005 dollars). That’s an outlay of between $12,005 and $17,458 annually per individual.
The treatment of ADHD continues to be a critical medical issue. CDC figures show approximately 11 percent of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. And that figure has continued to increase.
Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3 percent each year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of approximately 5 percent per year from 2003 to 2011.
Boys (13.2 percent) were more likely than girls (5.6 percent) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD. The average age of ADHD diagnosis was 7 years of age, but children reported by their parents as having more severe ADHD were diagnosed earlier. Interestingly, the prevalence of ADHD diagnosis varies substantially by state, according to the CDC, from a low of 5.6 percent in Nevada to a high of 18.7 percent in Kentucky.
Can “training the brain” make drug regimens for ADHD obsolete? Many researchers are hoping that’s the case.