Neurofeedback for ADHD: Does it work? what to expect (2023)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, can affect attention, learning, impulse control, and activity levels. Symptoms can make daily life and organization difficult.

As of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that6.1 millionChildren in the United States, about 9.4 percent, received a diagnosisADHDsometimes.

Common treatments for children with ADHD include medication, talk therapy and lifestyle changes, but this doesn't work for everyone. Some approaches, especially medications, can have unpleasant side effects.

Neurofeedback therapy is non-invasive and does not require medication. Some doctors believe it can help manage ADHD symptoms. Other names for this treatment are biofeedback and neurotherapy.

Below you will learn more about how likely this therapy is to be effective, what it involves, and the risks associated with it.

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In a person with ADHD, the brain can exhibit distinct behavioral patterns, particularly in the frontal lobe. This area is related to personality, behavior and learning.

The functioning of the brain and a person's behavior are linked. Changes in behavior can change the brain, and changes in the brain can change behavior.

Neurofeedback aims to change a person's behavior by altering their brain.

The brain produces measurable electrical signals or waves. A neurofeedback practitioner measures these waves, usually with a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG).

There are five types of brain waves: alpha, beta, gamma, delta and theta. Everyone has a different frequency that an EEG can measure.

SomeInvestigationsuggests that people with ADHD have more theta waves and fewer beta waves than people without the disorder. In theory, neurofeedback aims to correct this difference.

what to expect

(Video) Neurofeedback: Does it work? What to expect.

Before the first neurofeedback session, the doctor will ask questions about the person's symptoms, treatment history, and lifestyle.

The person will continue to provide feedback about their symptoms before each treatment session, as this allows the doctor to track improvements over time.

At the beginning of each session, the doctor places electrodes guided by an EEG device on the person's head. These measure brain activity.

The number of electrodes varies depending on the practitioner and the session. The electrodes do not hurt and do not supply electrical current. They are just there to measure brain activity.

When the session begins, a real-time scan of the person's brain waves appears on the screen.

The practitioner directs the person to perform a specific task in hopes that the task will alter the brain waves.

Activities can include playing a video game or other stimuli that encourage the brain to process information in different ways. Music may be involved, or a single note, or noises that stop and start suddenly.

When the brain responds to stimuli, the EEG feedback shows how the stimuli interrupt, change, or increase brain activity.

Readings can show significant changes in brain activity from one session to the next.

Proponents claim the process can slowly alter brain waves, affecting a person's behavior and ADHD-related symptoms.

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There have been conflicting results about the effectiveness of neurofeedback in ADHD.

In 2009, researchersMeta-analysiswho analyzed the effects of neurofeedback on disease symptoms. They concluded that neurofeedback can result in:

(Video) Neurofeedback Therapy Explained

  • large-scale improvements in impulsivity and inattention
  • moderate improvements in hyperactivity

The authors suggested that neurofeedback could be an "effective and specific" treatment for ADHD symptoms.

Em 2011,investigatorsuggested that neurofeedback may have aPlaceboIt is made.

They conducted a study in which eight young participants aged between 8 and 15 years underwent 30 sessions of neurofeedback, while another six received spurious neurofeedback. Both groups experienced similar changes.

2013analysisof studies have included neurofeedback in a list of interventions that can produce "statistically significant" improvements in ADHD symptoms.

on apilot study, also from 2013, researchers compared the effects of neurofeedback to those of stimulants, a widely accepted treatment for ADHD.

Sixteen participants, aged between 7 and 16 years, took the stimulants and 16 underwent 30 sessions of neurofeedback over a period of 7 to 11 months. Participants who took the medication experienced a reduction in ADHD symptoms, while those who underwent neurofeedback did not.

In 2014, researchers published a meta-analysis of the results of five previous studies on neurofeedback and ADHD.

They took into account the evaluations of parents and teachers of treated children. Overall, parents reported improvements in impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity, but teachers only saw improvements in inattention.

Researchersconcludedthat neurofeedback can be helpful for children with ADHD.

In 2016, the authors of aMeta-analysisfound that well-controlled studies did not provide enough evidence to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD. The authors called for more research.

neurofeedback comments

While some studies have shown promising results, critics point out that some of these studies have had design flaws. Errors in a study can make it difficult to test the effectiveness of a technique.

Many authors called for more research. Some researchers have criticized neurofeedback as a money-making scam, while others have raised concerns about a lack of guidelines.

Authors of a 2016learnnoted that although neurofeedback is not invasive, available evidence has not demonstrated its effectiveness. Furthermore, they wrote:

“It's expensive, time-consuming and its benefits don't last. Furthermore, it can take months to see the desired improvements.”

Is it save?

(Video) How does a neurofeedback session work? An ADHD treatment as example.

Neurofeedback is non-intrusive and proponents claim it is safe.

However, unwanted side effects can contain:

  • mentalfatigue
  • old feelings return in vivid dreams, for example, before finally disappearing
  • Dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light in people who have suffered a head injury

Neurofeedback can be expensive.

And in 2017Articlein Bloomberg Businessweek reported that 30 sessions of 40 minutes each can total $2,200 plus an initial assessment fee of $250.

It can be difficult to get insurance coverage for neurofeedback therapy and a personmust checkwith your provider before proceeding.

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Neurofeedback is painless, and the biggest drawback may be the cost. If other ADHD treatments have been ineffective, neurofeedback may be worth a try.

Questions to ask a professional include:

  • How much will the treatment cost?
  • How do you measure improvement?
  • How long should it take to see results?
  • How many sessions do I need?
  • How long does each session last?
  • Is there anything I can do to make the treatment more effective?

Anyone considering changing their ADHD treatment plan should discuss it with a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional.

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(Video) What is neurofeedback? Video game-like therapy being used to treat anxiety, ADHD and more

Neurofeedback can help alleviate ADHD symptoms, but it can be expensive and more evidence is needed to show its effectiveness.

Anyone considering neurofeedback should also contact them.International Society for Neurofeedback and Researchto ensure that the professional they are considering is certified.


I would like to try Neurofeedback for my son who is 9 years old and diagnosed with ADHD. How do I find a suitable doctor?


First, you need to know the professional's qualifications. You must have an appropriate license.

Check with state or local licensing agencies and make sure they are certified by an appropriate organization such as theInternational Biofeedback Certification Alliance.

The doctor should also be prepared to describe to you what to expect during treatment, as well as the risks and benefits associated with treatment.

Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP

Responses reflect the opinion of our medical experts. All content is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.


Does neurofeedback really work for ADHD? ›

Neurofeedback is a promising treatment for ADHD. Research recently proved that as little as 30 sessions of neurofeedback treatment could be as effective as popular stimulants in reducing ADHD symptoms. It isn't unheard of for someone to no longer need ADHD medication after substantial neurofeedback treatment.

How do you know if neurofeedback is working? ›

Common signs that neurofeedback is working in the first three sessions are the following: Feeling calmer at the end of the session. Feeling a heightened sense of mental clarity. Crisper sense perceptions (for those with sensory processing issues often less sensitivity to stimuli)

What to expect from neurofeedback? ›

Depending on your treatment plan, you may be asked to watch images on a screen, listen to music, or play a video game. As you engage in this simple activity, your doctor monitors your brainwaves and sets targeted training parameters using specialized brain mapping software.

How do you feel after a neurofeedback session? ›

Headaches or dizziness: You may experience dizziness during or after the training, particularly when training faster (high-frequency) waves. Distractedness: You may temporarily have trouble concentrating, but this symptom is usually mild and diminishes within a few hours after the session.

What is the success rate of neurofeedback? ›

What is the success rate of neurofeedback? The success rate commonly quoted by clinicians and in published scientific research for neurofeedback for certain conditions is 75%-80%.

How long do neurofeedback results last? ›

So is neurofeedback permanent? The positive results generated from neurofeedback treatment can be experienced long-term. Overall, neurofeedback therapy can be a long-lasting, safe, and effective treatment option, without the risk of side effects that can occur with the use of prescription medication.

How many sessions of neurofeedback for ADHD? ›

Many ADHD brains generate an abundance of low-frequency delta or theta brain waves, and a shortage of high-frequency beta brain waves. Over 20 to 40 training sessions, neurofeedback works to reverse that ratio. The end goal is an activated, engaged brain, and an overall reduction in ADHD symptoms.

How many neurofeedback sessions does it take to see results? ›

Most people find the neurofeedback process and training relaxing – some feel relief and results immediately, but every patient is different. Most of our patients begin to feel the benefits of neurofeedback in 3-4 weeks, or 6-8 sessions.

Are there any negative side effects of neurofeedback? ›

While a majority of patients do not experience side effects. Rare reactions may include: Anxiety or depression. Headaches or dizziness.

How many times a week should I do neurofeedback? ›

When starting neurofeedback training, it is optimal that sessions be regular and frequent at two or three (or more) sessions per week. It is possible to do more than one sessions in a day or to have sessions on two or three consecutive days.

Does neurofeedback work for everyone? ›

The results depend on many factors, like whether the treatment is the right fit for a patient's condition or ability of the treatment to change a patient's brain biology. For example, some people may not see benefits from neurofeedback because they are not using the right system for their needs.

Does neurofeedback always work? ›

Overall, neurofeedback is effective in helping patients achieve long-term symptom relief and an improved quality of life.

Can neurofeedback go wrong? ›

“While neurofeedback is generally recognized as a safe intervention for improving electroneurological flexibility, some people report side effects. A majority of reported side effects aren't considered dangerous and usually transitory in that they'll eventually subside.

Does neurofeedback get worse before it gets better? ›

A: Unfortunately, yes, but things getting worse before they get better is normal, and temporary. Brain wave patterns often shift in the wrong direction right before they shift in the right direction. Q: My child is aggressive, and oppositional, how can neurofeedback help?

Is neurofeedback a sham? ›

Background: Sham-controlled neurofeedback (NFB) trials consistently find no separation on ADHD outcome measures leading many to conclude that NFB's beneficial effects are due to placebo.

Who is a good candidate for neurofeedback? ›

Am I a good candidate for Neurofeedback? Brain training is a matter of intention, attitude and commitment. Candidates must be adults (18 years and older) and have a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from their Primary Care Physician, Psychiatrist or Psychologist.

Does neurofeedback rewire your brain? ›

Neurofeedback helps retrain your brain and address the dysregulation head-on. Through this training, your brain creates new pathways so that it can go back to functioning normally and you find long-term relief from the symptoms you're experiencing.

How many sessions of neurofeedback are needed? ›

Neurofeedback is a short-term treatment programme with long-term effects. Between 30 and 40 sessions are usually needed for the brain to consolidate its learning. For the best effects, sessions need to be held regularly, at least two times per week.

Is neurofeedback a gimmick? ›

However, neurofeedback is still not accepted as a mainstream treatment within mental health circles — and the most robust research into the intervention so far suggests it is no more effective than a placebo.

Is neurofeedback for ADHD FDA approved? ›

While being registered with the US FDA and internationally as a “medical devices,” neurofeedback systems may be legally used by any licensed professional for the indicated purpose of relaxation training and stress reduction.

How accurate is brain mapping for ADHD? ›

No brain imaging modality — MRI, SPECT scan, T.O.V.A, or other — can accurately diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). Despite what you may have read in the popular press, none of these tools can be used reliably as accurate, stand-alone diagnostic tools to identify ADHD.

How many neurofeedback sessions for ADHD? ›

Many ADHD brains generate an abundance of low-frequency delta or theta brain waves, and a shortage of high-frequency beta brain waves. Over 20 to 40 training sessions, neurofeedback works to reverse that ratio. The end goal is an activated, engaged brain, and an overall reduction in ADHD symptoms.

Is there a device for ADHD brain? ›

The Monarch eTNS System is the first FDA-cleared device for ADHD with proven efficacy in alleviating ADHD symptoms. This non-medication, minimal-risk monotherapy is used by parents or caregivers for at-home treatment of children ages 7 to 12 years who are not currently taking prescription medication for ADHD.

Is neurofeedback a placebo? ›

Moreover, this form of neuroenchantment likely holds special sway over critical reasoning and can lead people to accept explanations they would normally dismiss (Ali et al., 2014). In this regard, neurofeedback may represent an especially powerful form of placebo intervention—a kind of superplacebo.

What is Ring of Fire ADHD? ›

Type 6: Ring of Fire ADD

Symptoms: primary ADD symptoms plus extreme moodiness, anger outbursts, oppositional, inflexibility, fast thoughts, excessive talking, and very sensitive to sounds and lights. I named it Ring of Fire after the intense ring of overactivity that I saw in the brains of affected people.

How often should you do neurofeedback? ›

When starting neurofeedback training, it is optimal that sessions be regular and frequent at two or three (or more) sessions per week. It is possible to do more than one sessions in a day or to have sessions on two or three consecutive days.

Is brain mapping same as neurofeedback? ›

However, when EEG brain mapping (known as a qEEG) came along, it became possible to more precisely administer neurofeedback training. Today, with the help of brain maps, neurofeedback practitioners are able to see which areas of the brain aren't working the way they should.


1. Ask The Expert: Neurofeedback Treatment for ADHD
(Help for ADHD)
2. How Long Does Neurofeedback Take to Work?
(Dr. Trish Leigh, Brain Rewire )
3. What to Expect at Your Biofeedback Therapy Sessions
(Seattle Children's)
4. ADHD - Neurofeedback Therapy
5. Neurofeedback for ADHD
(Roseann Capanna-Hodge)
6. Will Neurofeedback Work for Me?
(Dr. Trish Leigh, Brain Rewire )
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