Executive Summary – Neurofeedback.
Imagine wearing a headset and playing a video game that only ‘goes’ when you are learning to increase the brain waves associated with focus and concentration.
Neurofeedback is a kind of biofeedback which uses a sensor and amplifier to detect the brain’s electrical signature so that it can be seen, and thereby controlled. By watching your own neural activity occurring, and gaining control over the brain waves you are producing, you gain greater mental resilience and flexibility. You naturally develop better coordinated neural activity. Multiple and diverse benefits are typical, without any unwanted effects.
The educational benefits apply to all students including athletes, gifted students and those with myriad special needs. Neurofeedback yields permanent improvements in attention, learning, and memory. It is used by the U.S. military, business, athletes and performers to consistently achieve top performance, summon profound concentration, and apply greater mental power to solve complex problems.
There are several hundred scientific studies showing complete and permanent elimination of ADHD, learning problems, and numerous neurological disorders which cripple learning. The process is beneficial for everyone to improve focus and concentration. Over the past 30 years neurofeedback has proven completely safe in all cases.
IQ boosts of 10-20 points are typical in certain special needs groups. No other training or intervention of any kind has so substantially reduced students’ need for pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin. No other technology is as promising to reduce the cost of providing a higher quality education to all students. No remedial or didactic program has such compelling supportive data to fulfill the President’s vision of leaving no student behind.
Several impressive organizations have embraced this technology due it’s extraordinary results. But because the underlying paradigm in new, institutional acceptance and definitive research funding has been slow. The worst that can be said is that more research is warranted.
There are many reasons to get out in front early of this wide open trend thundering at you soon. This may be the first you’ve heard of neurofeedback, but it will not be the last.
A simple investigation on Google using terms such as ‘Neurofeedback, QEEG, Lubar, ADHD, or ‘peak performance’ will be very revealing and convincing of claims made here.
The Broad Range of Benefits to Students from Neurofeedback
Neural Awareness for Mental Self-Regulation.
Biofeedback is learning. Use a special mirror for awareness of a function, and control of that function ensues. It works on the principle that if you can clearly see or hear continuous real-time output of a bodily function such as muscle tension, temperature, or blood pressure, then you can learn to manipulate it. Neurofeedback is biofeedback that uses an EEG to display the weak electrical by-product which all live brains emanate. Some sensors on the scalp can read blood flood in the brain instead of the electrical echo.
Thus, neurofeedback is simply mental activity awareness training. With awareness comes the ability to control brainwave output and opens the possibility for self-regulation. Real time observation of brainwaves leads to improved control for greater resilience and flexibility of well coordinated neural activity. It can look and feel just like playing a videogame with your mind while wearing a special headset.
Neurofeedback has consistently been shown safe and effective in improving self-regulation of neural activity in children of all ages. The benefits are numerous, diverse and profound. The myriad benefits are obtained by all kinds of students.
Of special note, on the one hand, are student athletes and gifted students. The US Army academy and U.S. Olympic program have embraced neurofeedback to optimize peak performance at will.
There is also ample evidence of substantial benefits for those with attention, behavioral, and learning deficits. There is definitive scientific evidence of partial or complete remediation of problems for those with ADHD, learning disorders and myriad neurologically-based disorders. To examine this evidence, simply open a search engine such as Google and enter the terms “Neurofeedback” or “QEEG” and any other term of interest. QEEG stands for Quantitative ElectroEncephaloGraph which is a data intensive brain map used for diagnosis. Caution: There are over 500 high quality scientific journal articles on neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback.
Nearly all students can derive either intellectual, social, emotional, or physiological benefits from optimizing neural functioning through this kind of biofeedback training with an EEG or HEG.
Neurofeedback is safe enough to be approved by the FDA for consumers’ unregulated use. There is no risk in this form of learning. But choices do have to be made, so the training might be supervised by certified professionals, but run day-to-day by teachers’ aids. In competent hands, it is reasonable to expect that 60-90% of all students, will experience permanent educational benefits ranging from subtle to exceptional.
The most likely benefits are enduring increases in the ability to concentrate, focus, learn, remember, and make complex decisions. Many other benefits are commonly reported. For example, IQ increases of 10-20 points are common in certain special needs groups. This result is considered by some to be a combination of remediation of a certain reading or attentional difficulty plus generalized improvement in brain functioning.
Quickly Self-Funding, and then Cost Saving.
Special education students make disproportionate use of costly resources. The cost of implementing a neurofeedback program is not only small, but it is self-funding. The money to pay for the EEG equipment, software, and trainers are recouped in the cost savings of mainstreaming special education students. This effect will be apparent, even obvious, in any group of students, within a few months of training in school. Even a pilot program should yield net cost savings within one year.
No other kind of method has so substantially reduced students' need for
pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin. No other technology is as promising to enlarge the academic prospects of children with learning handicaps. There is no alternative program, remedial product, or didactic curriculum which can make claims this credible and promising to fulfill the President's vision to leave no child behind.
The State of the Art is Continuing to Develop.
Neurofeedback is not a new technology. It is not a popular technology.
Longitudinal studies for ADHD are now older than the term ADHD (20 years). The results often show that 90% of students experience complete and permanent relief of attentional symptoms. Enter “Lubar ADHD” in Google.
There are a few theories about how and why it works. But our brains may not be complex enough to understand the complexity of our brains. Compelling to many are the before and after brain maps done with QEEG, SPECT, LORETTA, and other brain imaging techniques. The math and physics are esoteric, but the before and after pictures are obviously more balanced, healthy, and robust. My opinion is that the body will choose health and reject dysfunction when shown how.
Thousands of practitioners all over this nation are performing miracles (according to the Moms) in just 40 sessions. The field is specialized and developing rapidly. Experts are not of one mind on several topics. Advanced and skillful practioners prefer certain equipment, theories and nuances to approaching neurofeedback treatment. There is a lively debate about optimizing training methods. Some seek to reduce the number of sessions while others seek to derive all possible benefits. Several hardware vendors and software technologies claim similar results.
There may not be one ‘best’ approach now. There are not enough well-funded research studies to have settled all these issues. But any of these issues are all minor points when compared with the big picture: massive educational benefits and savings await the willing. Courage and leadership will be rewarded. This is an international opportunity for excellence.
How Much Neurofeedback Should We Start … and How Soon?
There are three primary issues when considering adoption of any neurofeedback proposal. Safety, effectiveness, and the evaluation process.
When conducted by volunteers or professionals, there is no credible problem with safety. Even in a partially self-insuring district with a litigious population, risk is not an issue. The only real potential litigation problem is NOT adopting neurofeedback in a timely manner, or in rejecting it unfairly.
Hundreds of studies and thousands of testimonials say this is no placebo effect. Despite the evidence of effectiveness, there are not plenty of neurofeedback programs in schools in surrounding districts. The worst that can be said is that neurofeedback is experimental. There are only 500 peer reviewed journal articles with results that range from mild to extraordinary. The big, definitive multi-university, randomized, replicated, double-blind, prospective, controlled scientific study has not yet been funded. We could be a major factor in the coming revolution. This is a highly significant opportunity in all respects.
The only expert competent to judge neurofeedback is one familiar with the specific technologies. This kind of proposal has been defeated in other districts because of uniformed and erroneous criticism by experts without expertise. In other districts, it has languished because decision makers had no clear criteria to evaluate degree of effectiveness required for adoption. When a proposal is new or strange, it is subjected to extraordinary levels of fit and proof which apply to no other decision.
In still other districts, those who saw a proposal die, do not say why. Therefore, an open process of evaluation by those qualified in the science and practice of neurofeedback is essential. Reasonable criteria for adoption should be recognized early and then honored in the light of day. The results of fair pilot studies should determine the degree of subsequent steps toward greater use of neurofeedback in the School District. The risk is nil, the upside extraordinary in many ways.
Adopting neurofeedback to any degree requires courage, vision, and openness to good ideas which aren’t entirely understood. The potential rewards are awesome. The risk of inaction is merely unfortunate.
Self-controlled brain wave training has benefits to offer special education students, athletes, gifted students, and all students. There is substantial scientific evidence of complete remediation for those with attention deficits and myriad learning disorders. The largest benefit is for normal students in the form or greater ability to focus on learning.
It is believed that all students can derive either intellectual, social, emotional, or physiological benefits from optimizing neural functioning. There is no risk of harm or downside to this form of learning. In 80-90% of all students, permanent health and educational benefits range from subtle to profound. Most often cited are enduring increases in abilities to concentrate, focus, learn, remember, and make complex decisions. Other benefits such as improvements in sleep are commonly reported. IQ increases of 10-20 points are typical in certain special needs groups. Apart from relieving a deficiency, nothing else increases IQ by 10-20 points.
No other educational program, therapy, or treatment has proven claims to reduce or totally eliminate ADHD students’ need for pharmaceutical stimulants such as Ritalin. No other technology is as promising to reduce the cost of providing a higher quality education to all students. No remedial or didactic program has proven this effective in fulfilling the President’s vision of leaving no student behind.
Beware of expert provincialism, defensiveness, unwarranted caution, and unrevealed economic motives for squelching enlightened forward movement. For example, psychiatry has well funded studies proving drugs are a temporary remedy for ADHD. The drugs don’t work for everyone and there are significant deleterious effects to powerful stimulants. Therapy based on interaction with child psychologists lack the kind of scientific verification for safety or effectiveness enjoyed by neurofeedback. They are naturally in conflict with a technology that can end their usefulness. There are no outspoken critics of neurofeedback who don’t have conflicts of interest, such as livelihood or having received pharmaceutical funding. The entire field of ADHD treatment is due for a paradigm shift.
Every claim in this paper is easily verified with an internet search engine. All the errors and a couple of the opinions are from Gary Ames. I hope you found this introduction useful and that it impels you to rapid, courageous, and dramatic action.