Neurofeedback in ADHD: a single-blind randomized controlled trial


Neurofeedback treatment has been demonstrated to reduce inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, previous studies did not adequately control confounding variables or did not employ a randomized reinforcer-controlled design. This study addresses those methodological shortcomings by comparing the effects of the following two matched biofeedback training variants on the primary symptoms of ADHD: EEG neurofeedback (NF) aiming at theta/beta ratio reduction and EMG biofeedback (BF) aiming at forehead muscle relaxation. Thirty-five children with ADHD (26 boys, 9 girls; 6–14 years old) were randomly assigned to either the therapy group (NF; n = 18) or the control group (BF; n = 17). Treatment for both groups consisted of 30 sessions. Pre- and post-treatment assessment consisted of psychophysiological measures, behavioural rating scales completed by parents and teachers, as well as psychometric measures. Training effectively reduced theta/beta ratios and EMG levels in the NF and BF groups, respectively. Parents reported significant reductions in primary ADHD symptoms, and inattention improvements in the NF group were higher compared to the control intervention (BF, d corr = −.94). NF training also improved attention and reaction times on the psychometric measures. The results indicate that NF effectively reduced inattention symptoms on parent rating scales and reaction time in neuropsychological tests. However, regarding hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms, the results imply that non-specific factors, such as behavioural contingencies, self-efficacy, structured learning environment and feed-forward processes, may also contribute to the positive behavioural effects induced by neurofeedback training.

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Correspondence to Günter Esser.

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Bakhshayesh, A.R., Hänsch, S., Wyschkon, A. et al. Neurofeedback in ADHD: a single-blind randomized controlled trial. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 20, 481 (2011).

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  • Biofeedback
  • Neurofeedback
  • EMG biofeedback
  • ADHD
  • Single-blind