How does Neurofeedback work? Why is it so effective in treating brain conditions as varied as ADHD, traumatic brain injury, seizures and learning disabilities? And so on. In the interest of answering these and other questions, we thought we’d start with the history of this remarkable, non-medicinal treatment for the brain known as Neurotherapy now available in Chicago.Learn More
Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?
Ari Goldstein, Ph.D.
Look around in any waiting room, restaurant, or public space filled with children who are required to wait for a period of time. What percentage of those children are engaged in conversation or play? How many are reading quietly to themselves? Now, how many are hyper-focused into a screen? What is it about these devices that so engages children and creates this need? To better understand this, we need to explore both the biological and the behavioral underpinnings of this ubiquitous trend.
How many of us, as adults, is guilty of constant engagement with our screen devices. Of course we deem much of it “work”, including our facebook surfing and engagement with a range of vapid entertainment. Who do our children look to as role models for their behaviors?
From the perspective of the brain, screen devices are awesome! They provide fast paced stimulation to the brain, and frequently contain a series of rewards or level development that further engage the brain. This rapid stimulation tells the brain to release more “feel good” neurochemicals such as serotonin.
Parents come in to my office on a daily basis expressing concerns over their children’s constant need to be engaged with a screen of one form or another. This is a double edged sword. Electronic communication is everywhere, and the adults of the future will need to be proficient in their usage and able to adapt with the technology. Children model their parents and friends behaviors, and everyone around us is engaged with a screen of some sort. While as parents we need to manage the amount of screen time our children have, we need to be aware of the benefits of some of the programs as well as the importance of technological literacy. The rule in my home is no screen time during the week unless it is directly related to homework. Then on the weekends we allow our kids a couple hours per day to engage in the screens of their choice. Most of the research done on the subject agrees that less than 2 hours per day of average screen time is not associated with any negative behavioral or cognitive patterns.
Certain forms of screen engagement can also be very positive, and challenge cognitive skills. There are several very good research based online programs designed to develop a range of cognitive skills, including executive functioning, memory, and attention. Many games also require a high level of strategy, planning, and visual spatial problem solving (think Minecraft). Encourage your children to engage in the types of games which require them to focus, think, and plan ahead.
By managing the amount of screen time and the content itself, this entertainment method can become a powerful tool to sharpen your child’s mind and ensure their technological proficiency as they enter adulthood.
At Cognitive Solutions Learning Center in Chicago, we work with children and adult who have been diagnosed with a range of learning disabilities (Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia) and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders. Our approach includes a range of non-medicine based treatments and interventions, and we work with parents to ensure that their children can grow to their full potential.Learn More
Neurofeedback: Science or Shamanistic Ritual?
By Ari Goldstein, Ph.D.
The human brain is a fascinating organ that constantly seeks to improve itself. The capacity of the brain to grow and develop in response to environmental stimuli is magnificent. From trepanation to phrenology, behaviorism to psychoanalysis, man has sought to better understand this splendid organ. As we begin the 21st century, our knowledge of the brain continues to grow and develop at a rapid pace. Technology allows us to understand and improve how the brain functions in manners never before thought to be possible. One of the ways current science allows us to understand how the brain functions is through analysis and normalization of the electrical patterns created by the brain. The process of reading and analyzing the brain’s electrical patterns is known as a Quantitative EEG. The data provided through this process helps individuals and their clinicians understand how their brain is functioning and processing information, thereby allowing for much more targeted clinical interventions.
When I was a psychology student in College, we were taught that the brain does not grow much in adulthood. As the understanding of the brain and neuronal functioning has increased, we now know that the brain is highly capable of adapting and growing even into old age if given the right stimulus. The process of EEG Neurofeedback involves teaching the brain to grow and develop more efficient patterns of functioning. Through a series of games and activities played while connecting their brain to the computer, individuals learn to better self-regulate and improve the efficiency of their brain function.
I was first introduced to EEG Neurofeedback by Dr. Sam Effarah, and my thinking around learning and the brain changed dramatically. I was able to very clearly see quantitative data on how the brain was functioning, and saw how we could gain an amazing amount of very functional and actionable knowledge from a Quantitative EEG assessment. I also began to see the tremendous value in teaching people to regulate their own functioning through neurofeedback in a much more meaningful and lasting way. Clinicians could very clearly see patterns in the brains of individuals diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and autistic spectrum disorders that were different from the average brain. Often times, the frontal lobe of the brain in individuals with attention difficulties has far too much of the slow wave known as “Theta”. This can cause a state of cognition known in scientific terms as “La La Land”. A fast spindly wave known as “High-Beta” was often seen throughout the brain of those with hyperactivity and anxiety. Disconnections between areas of the brain that process auditory and visual stimulus often become apparent through the Quantitative EEG in those diagnosed with learning disabilities.
When we began using EEG data to drive some of the work we do at Cognitive Solutions, the level of skepticism among our colleagues and patients was high. It was almost as if we were practicing some form of shamanistic ritual to help people. As time went on, more and more people began to try it out. We had patients referred to us with a range of symptoms, including attention disorders, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorders. Most patients reported improvement in a range of symptoms after completing only a few sessions. Some took more time to see improvement, but those who stuck with it generally reported significant improvement in their functioning over time.
The research on Neurofeedback is strong (isnr.org). While detractors would note the lack of double blind studies, a host of solid research studies into neurofeedback show quantifiable evidence of improvement for a range of brain based dysfunctions. Anecdotal cases can be found all over the world for individuals who have seen improvement for a range of symptoms affecting their daily functioning. The American Psychological Association has consistently given higher and higher efficacy marks to this treatment as more and more solid research has been conducted.
At Cognitive Solutions Learning Center in Chicago, we have worked with thousands of patients using neurofeedback over the past fifteen years. Most have seen tremendous benefits in quality of life as a result of this treatment. As I have watched the science catch up to what I have seen personally in our clinic, I am glad to have discovered this amazing intervention tool. From shamanistic ritual to true science, it appears that neurofeedback is a viable and drug free option for many patients to treat a range of brain based symptoms.
When I was growing up in the 1970’s, there were always boys who were hyper. They couldn’t control their behaviors, responded impulsively to everything placed in front of them, and acted as if driven by little motors constantly running full speed inside their bodies. There were also boys who stared off into space on a regular basis, seeing a whole movie playing behind their eyes. There were girls who flitted around the room like social butterflies, and those who gazed out the window seeing a movie of their own.Learn More
Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD) manifests itself through two main characteristics: inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. These symptoms, as well as the others that often accompany them, can cause numerous problems in a person’s day-to-day life. These problems include the inability to maintain stable relationships, poor performance at work, difficulty organizing and planning, and low self-esteem.
A person exhibiting symptoms of inattention makes careless mistakes, doesn’t listen being when directly spoken to, doesn’t follow through on instructions, fails to finish tasks, has difficulty organizing tasks and activities, is easily distracted, and is forgetful in their daily activities. That same person might exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. These symptoms include: fidgeting with their hands and feet, often physically active in situations when it isn’t appropriate, and often interrupting the conversations of others.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder always starts in childhood. This means, if an adult is just discovering they have ADHD they also had it as a child. Some people have fewer symptoms as they age and their brain develops further. It is difficult to diagnose ADD/ADHD in adults because many of the symptoms frequently stem from other conditions. It is important to note that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder does not cause other disorders. However, a number of conditions often accompany this disorder including mood, anxiety, and personality disorders.
If you feel that you or a loved one has the characteristics of adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, fell free to contact Cognitive Solutions Learning Center in Chicago at (773)755-1775 or online Adult ADD and ADHD for more information or to schedule a consultation.Learn More
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is common amongst children and young adults around the world, and can present with difficulties regulating focus, bodily movement, and impulsivity. Contrary to modern thinking, medications for child attention deficit disorder (ADHD) are not always the best initial treatment. Instead, parents should seek out behavioral treatments according to new research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. Medications that address ADHD symptoms such as a lack of concentration in the classroom don’t necessarily address other impairments caused by ADHD. These often include difficulties with executive skills, emotional and behavioral regulation, and development of academic functioning. At CSLC, we have a repeatable process that is proven to alleviate the need for medicines such as Concerta, Adderall, Focalyn, or Strattera. Medicines such as the ones listed are short-term treatments that do not change brain function long term. While medication can be an effective tool for some people, our approach is COMPLETLEY non-medicinal and addresses each aspect of brain function for a long-term solution. We customize our treatments for each individual, because we understand that each patient is unique. Please review our website www.Helpforld.com to see what we can do!
Looking for some simple behavioral interventions to try out in the home?
Cognitive Solutions Learning Center says:
1.Ignore mild inappropriate behaviors and praise appropriate behaviors (Catch them being good!)
2.Use appropriate commands:
o Obtain the child’s attention: say the child’s name
o Use command not question language
o Be specific
o Command is brief and appropriate to the child’s developmental level
o State consequences and follow through
3.Daily charts (e.g., School, Home Daily Report Cards). www.goalforit.com is a great resource for chart creation. Encourage ownership in the chart, and have your child help with chart creation (brainstorming of concepts to be measured with the chart, how to implement, and appropriate rewards).
4.Premack contingencies using above charts (e.g., watch TV or phone time contingent upon homework or task completion)
5.Point/token system with both reward and cost components
6.Specific times and places for homework. Environment should be clean, well lit, and free of distractions. Time management worksheets can also be a useful toll for developing better homework monitoring skills.Learn More