At the request of readers I've been out looking for information about whether methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine; Adderall) boost IQ and SAT scores. Haven't come up with anything quantitative yet. But in the process of looking I came across some interesting reports on biofeedback treatments for ADD (attention deficit disorder)/attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). A recent Stanford symposium, entitled "Brainwave Entrainment to External Rhythmic Stimuli: Interdisciplinary Research and Clinical Perspectives", surveyed methods of using rythmic stimuli as cognitive therapy. Maybe Janet Jackson has been delivering cognitive therapy.
Harold Russell, a clinical psychologist and adjunct research professor in the Department of Gerontology and Health Promotion at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, used rhythmic light and sound stimulation to treat ADD (attention deficit disorder) in elementary and middle school boys. His studies found that rhythmic stimuli that sped up brainwaves in subjects increased concentration in ways similar to ADD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. Following a series of 20-minute treatment sessions administered over several months, the children made lasting gains in concentration and performance on IQ tests and had a notable reduction in behavioral problems compared to the control group, Russell said.
But the article does not quantify these gains.
The frequency of the delivered light and sound is controlled using biofeedback to measure brain activity.
"For most of us, the brain is locked into a particular level of functioning," the psychologist said. "If we ultimately speed up or slow down the brainwave activity, then it becomes much easier for the brain to shift its speed as needed."
Russell, whose study was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and included 40 experimental subjects, hopes to earn approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use the brainwave entrainment device as a treatment for ADD. The device uses an EEG to read brainwaves and then presents rhythmic light and sound stimuli through special eyeglasses and headphones at a slightly higher frequency than the brain's natural rhythm.
Thomas Budzynski, an affiliate professor of psychology at the University of Washington, conducted similar experiments with a small group of underachieving college students at Western Washington University. He found that rhythmic light and sound therapy helped students achieve a significant improvement in their grades.
Again, the article does not quantify the gains. Still, interesting.
Budzynski also found that rhythmic therapy could improve cognitive functioning in some elderly people by increasing blood flow throughout the brain. "The brain tends to groove on novel stimuli," Budzynski explained. "When a novel stimulus is applied to the brain, the brain lights up and cerebral blood flow increases." To maintain the high blood flow, Budzynski used a random alternation of rhythmic lights and sounds to stimulate the brains of elderly people. The result: Many of the seniors improved performance on an array of cognitive tests.
Wouldn't you like to try some of these methods of biofeedback to see if you could enhance your own cognitive function?
Jacques Duff, the Australian president-elect of the International Society of Neuronal Regulation, runs a centre in Melbourne that has treated more than 1000 people. He believes the treatment is so effective the need for medication can sometimes be eradicated.
"In the case of ADHD, within 20 sessions the effect is similar to Ritalin, with the effects being permanent," Duff says.
Biofeedback-based therapy strikes me as probably lower risk than drugs.
The IQ score boost of ADHD kids is probably much higher than would be seen with people who do not have ADHD. Also, the extent of the benefit might be different depending on whether one's problem is more distractability versus hyperactivity.
As the technique works on strengthening brainwaves, just about anyone can benefit from it, with students and athletes attending clinics. However, Duff warns that budding Einsteins will be disappointed.
"There is an optimum set-point for the brain. You can't, for example, keep making someone smarter. On average though, an IQ increase of 15 points is seen in children with ADHD and learning difficulties."
The use of biofeedback for ADD/ADHD is nothing new. You can find lots of articles on it going back decades if you search on it.
Results: BASC Monitor and TOVA scores indicated similar significant improvements in both groups. No significant difference in treatment change was seen in between-group comparisons. Parents' subjective appraisal of treatment effect on ADHD was more positive for the videogame group. The videogame treatment was rated significantly more enjoyable by both parents and children. Trends on pre-post QEEG change maps indicated that the videogame training may have advantages in creating more quantitative EEG effect in the therapeutic direction.
Conclusions: We conclude that the videogame biofeedback technology, as implemented in the NASA prototype tested, produced equivalent results to standard neurofeedback in effects on ADHD symptoms. Both the videogame and standard neurofeedback improved the functioning of children with ADHD substantially above the benefits of medication. The videogame technology provided advantages over standard neurofeedback treatment in terms of enjoyability for the children and positive parent perception, and possibly has stronger quantitative post-treatment effects on EEG.
I'd love to see large scale controlled tests of the cognitive performance effects of ADHD drugs with SAT, IQ, and other tests delivered before and after administration of drugs to people with and without ADHD and to people with a wide range of IQ levels.
Also see my post ADHD Drugs In Vogue For Boosting College Test Scores.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 June 03 10:14 AM Brain Enhancement|