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Neuroscience of Focus

The Neuroscience of Focus
Do you feel like you could get more done if you could just focus? Do you find your mind wandering when you just want it to stay put?

Neurofeedback can help! We direct training to the area of the brain responsible for focusing—the left prefrontal lobe, to enhance it’s function. This area can be tuned up to work better for you.

We look at the prefrontal lobe’s activation level to see whether it has enough neural activity or energy to do its job well. Excess slow waves in this area slow down the function of this area and make it harder to focus.
You may have a definite of fast brainwaves
Your brain may attempt to compensate for this situation by boosting it’s fast waves via anxiety.

You may be familiar with this phenomenon if you find you need to be under pressure in order to be productive or need to get yourself anxious about something to move forward with it.
Tuning up your left prefrontal brain region can also help with:
  • mental endurance
  • filtering distractions
  • controlling impulses
  • organization
  • planning
  • motivation
  • follow-through
Neurofeedback results
Considerable research has been done on the effectiveness of neurofeedback for enhancing focus.

The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) and the International Society for Neuronal Regulation indicate empirical support for the efficacy of neurofeedback for focus.

The Science of Focus

The frontal region of the brain is also responsible for impulse control. Individuals whom are considered as hyperactive or fidgety may have an under-activated less controlled frontal region and their motor activity is not controlled adequately. A result of this under-activation is demonstrated when a child or an adult acts upon his/her impulses spontaneously without thinking about the consequences. The child or adult may act out by interrupting conversations or blurting out inappropriate comments. 

The speed of brainwaves varies from slow to fast. Under-activation means the area has an imbalance in the ratio of slow to fast brainwaves. Too many slow brainwaves, such as delta or theta waves, will slow activity of the region. The problem is often compounded by too few fast brainwaves, such as beta waves.

Children and adults with focus issues whom are highly emotionally reactive typically show excessive slow brainwaves in the right prefrontal lobe. This is also the case for children who tantrum excessively. The slow brain waves on the right side are associated with one having less emotional control and this might mean an individual will have anger outbursts, agitation, inability to stay calm under pressure, and depressive-type symptoms. 

One with too slow brain waves on the left side may demonstrate poor impulse control and organizational skills and may struggle with focusing on mundane responsibilities  (“this is boring!"). These individuals may have complaints of feeling unmotivated and have difficulty planning and following through with projects.

Focus Research

  • Journal of Clinical EEG & Neuroscience, July, 2009
    Efficacy of Neurofeedback Treatment in ADHD: the Effects on Inattention, Impulsivity and Hyperactivity: a Meta-Analysis
    Arns M, de Ridder S, Strehl U, Breteler M and Loenen A

    Since the first reports of neurofeedback treatment in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 1976, many studies have investigated the effects of neurofeedback on different symptoms of ADHD such as inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. This technique is also used by many practitioners, but the question as to the evidence-based level of this treatment is still unclear. In this study selected research on neurofeedback treatment for ADHD was collected and a meta-analysis was performed.

    Both prospective controlled studies and studies employing a pre- and post-design found large effect sizes (ES) for neurofeedback on impulsivity and inattention and a medium ES for hyperactivity. Randomized studies demonstrated a lower ES for hyperactivity suggesting that hyperactivity is probably most sensitive to nonspecific treatment factors.

    Due to the inclusion of some very recent and sound methodological studies in this meta-analysis, potential confounding factors such as small studies, lack of randomization in previous studies and a lack of adequate control groups have been addressed, and the clinical effects of neurofeedback in the treatment of ADHD can be regarded as clinically meaningful. Three randomized studies have employed a semi-active control group which can be regarded as a credible sham control providing an equal level of cognitive training and client-therapist interaction.

    Therefore, in line with the AAPB and ISNR guidelines for rating clinical efficacy, we conclude that neurofeedback treatment for ADHD can be considered "Efficacious and Specific" (Level 5) with a large ES for inattention and impulsivity and a medium ES for hyperactivity.
  • Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2003 Mar;28(1):1-12.

    Neurofeedback treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children: a comparison with methylphenidate.

    Fuchs T1, Birbaumer N, Lutzenberger W, Gruzelier JH, Kaiser J
    Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, Eberhard-Karls-University, Gartenstr. 29, 72074 Tübingen, Germany.

    Clinical trials have suggested that neurofeedback may be efficient in treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We compared the effects of a 3-month electroencephalographic feedback program providing reinforcement contingent on the production of cortical sensorimotor rhythm (12-15 Hz) and betal activity (15-18 Hz) with stimulant medication.

    Participants were N = 34 children aged 8-12 years, 22 of which were assigned to the neurofeedback group and 12 to the methylphenidate group according to their parents' preference. Both neurofeedback and methylphenidate were associated with improvements on all subscales of the Test of Variables of Attention, and on the speed and accuracy measures of the d2 Attention Endurance Test.

    Furthermore, behaviors related to the disorder were rated as significantly reduced in both groups by both teachers and parents on the IOWA-Conners Behavior Rating Scale. These findings suggest that neurofeedback was efficient in improving some of the behavioral concomitants of ADHD in children whose parents favored a nonpharmacological treatment.
  • Expert Review Neurotherapeutics, 7(4), 315-319
    Place of EEG Biofeedback for ADHD
    Hirschberg LM

    Although methodological weaknesses limited early research into electroencephalograpic (EEG) biofeedback (EBF) for treatment of attention-deficit/hyperacticity disorder (ADHD), recent stronger randomized controlled trials have provided substantial, but not yet conclusive, empirical support. Additional support is found in research on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) feedback and brain-computer interface (BCI) models which involve feedback-guided learning to achieve control over neural activation.
  • Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 12, #2, June, 2007, p146-151
    EEG Biofeedback in the Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [abs.]
    Friel PN

    Electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback, also known as neurofeedback, is a promising alternative treatment for patients with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD).

    EEG biofeedback therapy rewards scalp EEG frequencies that are associated with relaxed attention, and suppresses frequencies associated with under- or over-arousal.
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