Neurofeedback: A Non-Invasive Solution For Adhd, Depression, Ms, And Chronic Pain

  • Elena Paspel Master of Science in Engineering (Digital Health) - Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
  • Rebecca Roy Bsc Biochemistry and Pharmacology University of Strathclyde
  • Antonina Swierkowska MSc Translational Neuroscience, The University of Sheffield

Introduction

Neurofeedback promises the possibility of changing how your brain works. It can be used in treating ADHD, decreasing the serious effects of clinical depression, or managing multiple sclerosis (MS). This capability isn't just speculative; it's grounded in the promising applications of neurofeedback. This is not mere fantasy, it is the reality offered by neurofeedback therapy. Approximately 7% of children worldwide are affected by ADHD, many of whom continue to face challenges into adulthood.1 Simultaneously, major depressive disorder (MDD) impacts over 300 million people globally, significantly reducing the quality of life and increasing disability risk.2 MS, a chronic autoimmune condition, disrupts the lives of many young adults with symptoms including fatigue, cognitive deficits, and pain.2

Understanding neurofeedback

Neurofeedback, also referred to as EEG biofeedback (EEG-NF), is a therapy that enables individuals to alter their brainwave patterns. Recent studies have highlighted its growing popularity as an alternative treatment for neuropsychiatric conditions such as ADHD, depression, MS, anxiety, and chronic pain.3

How neurofeedback works

During a neurofeedback session, electrodes placed on the scalp measure the electrical activity of the brain. The person using this system receives real-time data displayed as visual or audio cues. For instance, a person can manage how graphics move on a screen by changing the strength of their brainwaves. In essence, this connects interactive feedback to brain operation. By mastering control over these patterns, one may potentially regulate their brain function.3

During a neurofeedback session, the brain activity is recorded by sensors and processed. A person receives visual feedback and the brain's electrical activity is measured again. 

Key neurofeedback protocols

Neurofeedback protocols may differ depending on the outcome one wants to achieve. Attention and vigilance can be improved by enhancing brain sensorimotor rhythm in the 12-15 Hz range.3 Training the brain in theta wave (4-7 Hz) promotes deep relaxation. 3

ADHD management through neurofeedback

ADHD, characterised by inattention and hyperactivity, may be effectively managed through neurofeedback, which uses operant conditioning to teach individuals to govern their brain activity, potentially ameliorating symptoms.1 Techniques such as EEG-NF focus on modifying brainwave patterns associated with ADHD, like theta and beta waves.1 A comprehensive review of randomised trials has suggested that the efficacy of neurofeedback in treating ADHD is comparable to that of medication.4 Despite over 45 years of EEG-NF use in ADHD management, the debate regarding its efficacy persists, underscoring the need for further systematic research.1

Tackling depression with neurofeedback

Neurofeedback has demonstrated potential in mitigating depression symptoms by adjusting brainwave activity, specifically by decreasing alpha waves in the left frontal lobe associated with depression. Those using this therapy have experienced significant alleviation.5 One study showed that training in frontal alpha asymmetry for twenty sessions brought great benefits for depression.6 Though meta-analyses suggest that these treatments could help as additional methods for treating depression, there is still general agreement that we need more detailed research to confirm how effective these approaches are.2

Neurofeedback in multiple sclerosis (MS)

Common symptoms of MS, like tiredness, pain, depression, and cognitive problems, might be reduced with neurofeedback. Preliminary evidence suggests that neurofeedback, particularly EEG-NF, could be beneficial in managing these symptoms by modifying specific brainwave patterns.3 Studies have indicated that neurofeedback targeting the reduction of alpha/theta power and the enhancement of beta power in the left prefrontal area has significantly improved depression and fatigue in MS patients.3 In one study, 16 sessions of left frontal neurofeedback training reduced fatigue and depression in MS patients.7 Additional preliminary research has found cognitive gains after just five sessions of frontal theta/beta training.8 By normalising dysfunctional brainwave patterns, neurofeedback appears to restore neural balance and treat MS symptoms.3 Larger trials are still required to confirm these effects.

Neurofeedback for chronic pain: summary of review study

A collective of researchers reviewed 21 studies to determine the efficacy and safety of neurofeedback for long-term pain management.9 They concluded that while generally safe and potentially beneficial, the evidence is not yet definitive. In these studies, participants reported a reduction in pain ranging from 6% to 82%, with 10 studies showing significant reductions of over 30%. The overall impact was deemed considerable. However, the studies varied significantly. Some also noted improvements in mood, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep.9 A few common side effects were headaches, nausea, and sleepiness, which generally were not severe enough to halt treatment, except in one instance. To maximise the use of neurofeedback, further excellent research is essential.9

Summary

There's this mind-blowing treatment called neurofeedback that's changing the game for depression, chronic pain, MS, and ADHD. It's like tapping into the brain's own power to heal itself. 

Picture this: ADHD  helps both kids and grown-ups improve self-control. And get this, it's showing promise for easing depression symptoms too.

Plus, for folks battling MS, it might just be the key to tackling fatigue and cognitive issues. And don't even get me started on chronic pain - neurofeedback is like a superhero swooping in to save the day.

But here's the kicker: while the results are promising, we still need more research to fine-tune how we use this incredible tool. It's like we've stumbled upon a treasure chest of possibilities, but we've only just cracked it open.

References

  1. Rubia K, Westwood S, Aggensteiner PM, Brandeis D. Neurotherapeutics for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (Adhd): a review. Cells [Internet]. 2021 Aug 21 [cited 2024 Jan 31];10(8):2156. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8394071/ 
  2. Fernández-Alvarez J, Grassi M, Colombo D, Botella C, Cipresso P, Perna G, et al. Efficacy of bio- and neurofeedback for depression: a meta-analysis. Psychol Med [Internet]. [cited 2024 Jan 31];52(2):201–16. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8842225/ 
  3. Ayache SS, Bardel B, Lefaucheur JP, Chalah MA. Neurofeedback therapy for the management of multiple sclerosis symptoms: current knowledge and future perspectives. JIN [Internet]. 2021 Sep 30 [cited 2024 Jan 31];20(3):745–54. Available from: https://www.imrpress.com/journal/JIN/20/3/10.31083/j.jin2003079 
  4. Arns M, de Ridder S, Strehl U, Breteler M, Coenen A. Efficacy of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD: the effects on inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity: a meta-analysis. Clin EEG Neurosci. 2009 Jul;40(3):180–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19715181/ 
  5. Hammond DC. Neurofeedback with anxiety and affective disorders. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2005 Jan;14(1):105–23, vii. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15564054/ 
  6. Choi SW, Chi SE, Chung SY, Kim JW, Ahn CY, Kim HT. Is alpha wave neurofeedback effective with randomized clinical trials in depression? A pilot study. Neuropsychobiology. 2011;63(1):43–51. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21063132/ 
  7. Choobforoushzadeh A, Neshat-Doost HT, Molavi H, Abedi MR. Effect of neurofeedback training on depression and fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback [Internet]. 2015 Mar 1 [cited 2024 Jan 31];40(1):1–8. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-014-9267-4 
  8. Keune PM, Hansen S, Sauder T, Jaruszowic S, Kehm C, Keune J, et al. Frontal brain activity and cognitive processing speed in multiple sclerosis: An exploration of EEG neurofeedback training. NeuroImage: Clinical [Internet]. 2019 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Jan 31];22:101716. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221315821930066X 
  9. Patel K, Sutherland H, Henshaw J, Taylor JR, Brown CA, Casson A, et al. Effects of neurofeedback in the management of chronic pain: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of clinical trials. European Journal of Pain [Internet]. 2020 Sep [cited 2024 Jan 31];24(8):1440–57. Available from: https://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/161670/ 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Elena Paspel

Master of Science in Engineering (Digital Health) - Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

Bachelor of Laws - LLB (Hons), London Metropolitan University, UK

An experienced professional with a diverse background spanning law, pricing, and eHealth/Digital Health. Proficient in copywriting, medical terminology, healthcare interoperability standards, and MedTech regulations. A strong foundation in scientific research methodologies and user experience research supports the creation of compelling content for the biopharmaceutical, CROs, medical technology, and eHealth sectors.

Proven expertise in driving product vision, synthesizing complex information, and delivering user-centric solutions. Adept at streamlining workflows and processes, and drafting documentation and SOPs. Always open to collaborations and eager to connect with like-minded professionals.

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