Attention Training Programs

Are you interested in learning ways to improve your attention, or your child’s attention, without medication?

At our clinic, we have been at the forefront of research to develop non-pharmaceutical treatments for ADHD. So far, two types of computerized attention training have been developed that have produced positive results. Neurofeedback and online attention training programs that can be accessed on your home computer, tablet or phone.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback (also called neurotherapy or EEG biofeedback) has proven to be an effective treatment for ADHD, and is especially useful for patients who can’t tolerate medication or are concerned about the long term effects of using drugs. Others have used neurofeedback as a way to reduce the amount of medication needed to control their symptoms. Using neurofeedback, children, teens and adults with ADHD learn how to increase beta brain waves (associated with focused attention) or the sensorimotor rhythm (associated with behavioral control) and decrease theta waves (associated with inattention and loss of focus/concentration).

How does Neurofeedback work?

Most people have played a video game at some time in their life. When you play a video game you move characters on a screen with a mouse, joystick, or our fingers. In neurofeedback training, you control the action on a computer screen by learning to control your brain waves. Whenever your brain is producing an “attentive” brainwave pattern, the characters on the screen will begin to move (or move faster), you’ll earn a “game point” and hear a sound or tone, indicating that for a half of a second your brain was “paying attention” and your body was still and relaxed. But, if your brain is producing an “inattentive” brainwave pattern, the characters on the screen will stop or slow down, you won’t earn any “game points” and there will be no “reward sound”. Because children need an incentive to learn, they earn monetary rewards for their performance.

What are the goals of a Neurofeedback session?

At our clinic, each neurofeedback session includes five training games. The goal of each neurofeedback game is for the player to earn more and more game points, as they are learning how to increase their attention from very brief periods to much longer ones. We begin with five minute training games and over the course of training increase the time per game from 5 minutes to 9 minutes. When a patient is able to maintain their attention for 45 minutes, they are typically reporting significant improvement in their attention and ability to function effectively at home, school or at work.

How long does it take to complete neurofeedback?

Typically it takes approximately 20 to 40 sessions to achieve these results. Neurofeedback sessions occur 1 to 3 times per week. We closely monitor patient progress over the first five sessions, looking for evidence that learning is beginning to occur. If we do not see that the patient is showing any indication of neurological learning, we discontinue this type of treatment for 3-6 months and then offer the patient another opportunity for training.

What are the long-term benefits of neurofeedback?

At the conclusion of treatment, significant improvement has been found on tests of attention, academic skills, intellectual abilities, and behavioral control, as well as on QEEG tests conducted after the conclusion of treatment. Our clinic was the first to report an enduring effect of this type of treatment, with benefits lasting at the conclusion of treatment and at follow-up sessions conducted two years after treatment. Other clinics have published similar results. You can find a copy of our research paper in our library.

Side Effects

It is unlikely you will experience any after effects. The majority of patients report no side effects.
About 3-5% of patients may have brief side effects like headache, fatigue or frustration (when the patient is experiencing difficulty learning). However, none of these symptoms typically last beyond an hour. When a person is doing neurofeedback while taking medication, they may need to reduce the amount of medication taken over time. That is because when a person is better able to “activate” attention centers of the brain, they no longer need as much medication.

Are there any other kinds of attention training that I can do at home?

A number of companies have developed computerized attention training games that are available online for use at home. The most popular ones that we’ve found are “Lumosity” and Brain HQ. These are available through a monthly or yearly subscription. These interactive “brain training games” challenge a person to improve their attention, impulse control, processing speed, memory and problem solving skills by practicing a variety of “games”.

Do these programs work as well as neurofeedback?

Our experience using these training programs (as well as published research reports) is that children, teens and adults can improve their attention, and demonstrate gains on our QEEG examination. However, they need to train at least three times per week, and maintain a motivation to improve their scores.

Similar to using an elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike or other conditioning machine, patients need to continue to train on a consistent basis. If you purchase a treadmill but could care less about your time, distance or caloric use and don’t try to improve every time you train, it’s unlikely that you will improve your cardiovascular health. The same is true for these computerized attention training games. In addition, unlike neurofeedback, we have also found that if the patient does not continue this type of training, their gains are quickly lost.

With this type of approach, we have found improvement on measures of attention and on the QEEG assessment that we use. You can watch demonstrations of Lumosity, Brain HQ, and other computerized training programs on Youtube.