Is Medication the only answer for ADHD? No….

medsIn the past 10 years, millions of kids have been introduced to amphetamines and other stimulants to address ADHD. The number of prescriptions increased from 34.8 to 48.4 million between 2007 and 2011 alone. This medication comes with high costs both financially and physically – with horrible side effects such as agitation, flattened mood, confusion, mood swings and upset stomach.  Medication alone also doesn’t prevent ADHD, it simply masks the problem. Recent studies suggest cognitive behavioral therapy and neurofeedback could be a much safer alternative because they address the underlying problem without the harsh side effects of medication.  More new studies are being done to find safer, more effective ways to manage and cure ADHD – without overmedicating. Recent findings suggest that plain old physical activity may also be a highly effective treatment for ADHD.

Physical activity is a high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those who are attentive or hyperactive. Physical movement improves mental focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility and new research supports just how critical it is to academic performance.

Pediatrics recently published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings,”demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.” Furthermore, the improvements in kids who exercised regularly came in ‘executive control,’ which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks).

Another recent study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD. (Executive functioning is impaired in ADHD, and tied to performance in math and reading.)

Last year a very similar study in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids. The modest conclusion of the study was that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children.”

John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, suggests that people think of exercise as medication for ADHD. Even very light physical activity improves mood and cognitive performance by triggering the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, similar to the way that stimulant medications like Adderall do. He added, ‘physical exercise “is really for our brains.” He likened it to taking “a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.”

So, encourage your kids to put down those video games and go out and play!  It’s good for our bodies, but it’s even better for our brains – no matter what age we are!

What’s New in Neurofeedback? LOTS!!

NeurofeedbackThe field of EEG brain wave biofeedback, neurofeedback,  has advanced dramatically in recent years.  Advances in neuroscience have provided a richer understanding of the mechanisms of EEG operant conditioning, allowing for improved treatment across the different types of neurofeedback, especially in Z score training.

The most recent discovery is LORETA, Low Resoulution Electromagnetic Tomographic Analysis that was developed by Roberto Pascal Marti, Key Institute, in Zurich.  LORETA Z score Neurofeedback was developed at the University of Tennessee, and has had it’s clinical efficacy supported by a number of publications.  The goal of LORETA is to train the activity inside the brain, not just the surface EEG on the cranium of the brain, as it trains the amplitude (power), the coherence (connectivity), and the phase lag (timing).

LORETA Z score neurofeedback trains the whole brain

Emotion, memories, and behavior depend on the coordinated activities of multiple regions in the brain that are connected by the limbic system.  LORETA Z score training allows us to train the different systems (networks and hubs) in all three dimensions, amplitude, coherence, and timing.  LORETA connects the data from your QEEG to the Broadmann areas of the brain that research associates with the desired symptom you are wanting to train.  Relying solely on brain maps can be misleading, as the brain can develop compensatory systems to work around the problem, and thus misrepresent what is truly causing the problems. With the LORETA Z score training, you are utilizing over two hundred years of research linking symptoms to the Broadman areas in the brain, with the end result of treating the root and not a symptom.

LORETA Neurofeedback is offered now in both the Dallas and Irving centers

The Brain Performance Center is proud to offer LORETA Z score neurofeedback, being one of approximately 100 clinics in the USA to offer this type of neurofeedback

Bored to Death

boringMany of us are familiar with the old expression, “bored to death,” and usually take it as nothing more than hyperbole. However, a new study has shown that this is more than an overreaction, and an actual possibility. The Mind Scientific American July edition reports that a recent British study examined data collected from civil servants for self reported boredom, and several cardiac risk factors. They were first assessed in the 1970’s looking at different factors, including job satisfaction and boredom. In a follow up in 2010 they found that people were being bored to death. Certainly there were a number of factors that played into these findings such as poor physical fitness, unhealthy diet, and financial stress, but this isn’t the first time that boredom has been linked with undesirable mental and physical conditions.

As parents we have all been told by our children that “this is boring”, or “I’m bored,” and thought nothing of it. Even as students, we have sat in lectures that went on and on and on, and as adults most of us have had that dinner date where we just drum our fingers on our knee quietly and skip dessert. Sometimes boredom may arise from not fully engaging with ones surroundings. Some research suggests that we disengage because of a lapse in focus, meaning the frontal cortex of the brain is out of balance. Recent research suggests that chronic boredom is often linked to depression and often manifests in one of two ways, which are apathetic or agitated boredom. While these are polar reactions, most of us are somewhere in between the two. Boredom is associated with a lack of motivation, and a lack of internal or external stimulation. Think about this, when do you get bored? And more importantly how do you deal with the boredom?

Another thing to consider, is boredom being caused by an external factor, such as brain injury, as many people who have suffered from a brain injury report high levels of boredom. People who have had an intense blow to the head often demonstrate impulsive, risk taking behavior. It is therefore possible to see the correlation as the chronically bored are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, drive recklessly, and practice unsafe sex. The brain region most commonly damaged in a head injury is the orbitofrontal cortex, the region that is responsible for associating events, actions, and decisions with the cognitive and emotional actions. The frontal lobes are also the last part of the brain to develop, and recent research shows that the frontal lobes are not fully developed to the late twenties. So while boredom might not be listed a person’s cause of death on the reports, an idle and restless mind can play a part in risk taking or destructive behavior.

Boredom is more complex that we think. I use to tell my kids, “Only boring people get bored.” Nothing could be further from the truth. To learn more about where the truth lies read the full article that offers many resources for further reading.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=chronic-boredom-may-be-sign-poor-health

Do you ever wonder where your mind went?

Have you ever pulled into the driveway and thought, “I’m home,” and then realized that you have no recollection of the drive? Or maybe it’s after you’ve hung up the phone after the conversation and thought, “what was it we agreed to?” This is how the distracted mind works, and we all have one from time to time.

As pointed out in the March/April Scientific American Mind article, “Being in the Now” by Amishi P. Jha, the opposite of a wandering mind is a mindful one. She goes on to explain how having a “focus in the present” can make us happier and healthier, and that being mindful improves our ability to pay attention and concentrate. While this sounds like an easy fix for everyone, there is far more too it.

Mindfulness is being engage in the here and now, without reacting to it or evaluating it. Just being. Jha reviews recent studies completed at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Medical School, and Carnegie Melon University that all demonstrate the broad application of mindfulness, and how your quality of life can be enhanced physiologically, emotionally and cognitively. Being able to direct and monitor attention can improve your performance in all aspects of your life.

The good news is, the path to becoming mindful is not as hard as you might thin. It all starts with your breath. Find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breathing. Follow the movement through your body. How do you breathe? Are you breathing short, choppy breaths with the air stopping in your chest? Do you feel the air push down into your abdomen and feel your stomach expand?

When you start to find your mind wandering off – and it will – come back to your breath. Focus on the breath coming in, pause, and the breath going out. Finding focus can be hard to do, but this is training you to become mindful.

An optimal breathing rate is between 4 to 7 breaths a minute. When we are talking with our family and friends, we are breathing 12 – 14 breaths a minute, as we have to, to fuel conversation. You’ve probably never thought about how you breathe. The physiological effects of an optimal breathing rate can have profound impacts on your health. Imagine a car never getting the correct mixture of gasoline and oxygen, always running at half of it;s capacity. But once the two are synched up into an optimal mixture, the car runs like it never has before. This is exactly like your body.

Becoming more mindful can enhance your life in many ways, and the first step is to master your breathing. Block out 10 minutes a day for the next two weeks for your “workout”. Feel your whole body move with your breathe, think about what is going on around you, what you hear and smell. Be receptive to all the sensations and breathe. You are on the path to becoming mindful, improving your brain and most importantly your life.

To read the full article on mindfulness, click here:

Is playing video games good for the brain?

“Is playing video games good for the brain?” I have been asked this question many times and have always answered “with moderation,” as the problem solving and hand eye coordination involved could certainly have positive impacts.  Growing research has begun to increasingly support this claim, which often elicits the parental response of “but do we really need all the weapons?”. Sadly enough, the answer is yes. Research supports that games with the most powerful neurological effects are the most controversial as well, the first person shooters.

The January/February issue Scientific American Mind offers a good overview of the positive and negative qualities associated with playing video games.  While 90% of all kids play video games, the average age of a gamer is 33, and many adults indulge in the sensory delight as well.

Gamers of all ages have been found to have: *  Better detail detection   * Better eye hand coordination   * Improved eyesight and visual attention   * Better spatial attention   *Better decision making when a quick response is needed   * Better at assessing new visual information   * Able to manage multiple streams of information

There is no doubt that the rich graphics and the complex story lines stimulate the brain reward system, releasing dopamine that is associated with pleasure.  While that dopamine release sparks learning, it also encourages continuous play, which brings about the even more controversial notion of gaming addiction.  A recent Harris poll shows that 8.5% of the children in the U.S. show signs of addiction to video games.

Another question that follows in tandem with the above is whether video games trigger aggression? The body dumps stress hormones during game play, reacting to the stressful stimuli by preparing for a fight.  It doesn’t usually last long after the play is disengaged, but this may affect the way the child perceives the world.

All being said, my answer on the subject of video games and learning stays the same; “everything in moderation.” Gaming is here to stay, and by embracing it and seeking a better understanding of its effects on cognitive development, we can maximize its benefits and mitigate its shortcomings.

To read the full article and form your own opinion click here:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-video-games-change-brain

 

Does childhood ADHD lead to a more difficult life as an adult?

Media attention is often directed at the rigors that children with ADHD must face, but it begs the question “what about adults?” Does childhood ADHD lead to a more difficult and stressful life as an adult?  The Journal Pediatrics will publish a new study this January that addresses this question.  However, as expected, there is no definitive answer.

The study included a sample of 551 children and spanned more than 30 years, following the children as they grew until an average age of 37.  The study shows a correlation between patients who had ADHD as teens and greater risks of stress, work problems, financial troubles, physical and mental health issues, such as anxiety during adulthood.

When you compare people without ADHD to people with ADHD (in their teens and adulthood), the affected group had 82% higher odds of having impaired physical health, were twice as likely to have another mental health problem, and more than three times as likely to have antisocial personality disorder.

It was also noted that those who continued to have ADHD as adults were 2.5 times more likely to have problems with work and high financial stress.  The study volunteers were asked fairly subjective health questions suchHelpful recommendations for people suffering from ADHD(1) as, “Do you seem to get sick a little easier than other people?” They were also asked questions about mental health like, “How much of the time have you been nervous,” and “Do you worry about losing your job because of your current financial situation?”

It makes sense that many common symptoms of ADHD would interfere with one’s ability to perform at the level required by adulthood.  It may also interfere with physical health, as it impacts the decision making needed to follow up on doctor appointments, nutrition, and proper exercise.

Does this mean you are doomed to poor mental / physical health if you were diagnosed with ADHD as a child?  Definitely not! Some people will outgrow ADHD, as the brain continues to develop through emerging adulthood (late 20’s) and becomes more balanced.  Others learn coping techniques that are helpful in school and work, allowing them to focus and achieve success.

One important point to note is that the study originated in the 70’s and that views on mental health as well as medical science has changed.  Children today have more clinically effective treatment programs available, such as brain wave biofeedback, known as neurofeedback and neurotherapy.  There are more alternative medication options available today, including fish oils, nutritional supplements and vitamins.  Also, educational accommodations are becoming available that can have impacts on learning, particularly in higher education.

While this study did find an association between ADHD in adulthood and these problems, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship; correlation does not mean causation! Experts agree on one thing though, that it is important for parents to be attuned to their children and get them evaluated immediately if a problem is suspected.

If you are a child or an adult that struggles with ADHD, consider all the treatment options that are available.  Most importantly, set yourself up for success.  Get organized, learn to manage your time effectively, make priorities, create lists, and limit the interruptions you have every day.  Remember the brain is not set up to multi-task; it works best when it focuses on one purpose and goal at a time.

There are many systems and apps available to help you do this,  it can be confusing.  We wanted to make that easy for you and have listed our top three picks below that can be found by clicking here, https://www.udotherest.com/gettingorganized.aspx.  If you find other apps that you prefer, please share them with us, and post them on our Facebook for others to try.

#1 Evernote – Makes it easy to remember things big and small using your computer, your phone, and the Web.  Use it to capture your thoughts, ideas, inspiration, and things to remember.  It is easy to use, great graphics, very helpful and what a bang for your buck – FREE.

#2 Top Three – Changes the way you manage your priorities.  It makes you decide what things are most important, and helps you get them done.  Each day you get three new slots to fill, not ten.  By limiting priorities to just three things each day, and then being able to review history, you can work on being effective one step at a time.  A great bargain for 99 cents.

#3 White Noise – Provides ambient sounds of the environment.  Includes high-quality looping noises such as ocean waves, crickets chirping at night, and the soothing sound of rainfall.  For $1.99 this is a great way to drown out the noises of the day and limit those deadly interruptions.

We wish you a focused, organized, and productive 2013!

 

Handle your stress – Don’t let it handle you

Stress is part of our everyday life, and some days we handle it better than others. Some days we get stressed about being stressed, starting a vicious cycle that wreaks havoc on our nerves, our work , and personal lives. However, you shouldn’t feel so guilty, as some of these are reactions are completely justified – in fact, it’d be strange if somethings didn’t cause you stress.

New research published in “The Journal of Neuroscience” shows that a stress you can control is very different from a stress that you can’t control. An example of an uncontrollable stress could be a traumatic event, such as the divorce or death of a family member. A controllable stress could be training for and running a 10k race, or preparing for your dream vacation. Not all stress is bad.

Since we’ve already identified that stress is inevitable and unavoidable, we can then agree that it’s how you handle the stress that is most important. After exposure to a controllable stress there is increased activity in the frontal cortex and research suggest that exciting this area can create resilience to stress in general. So just as with anything in life, practice dealing with stress. Set goals for yourself that required a certain amount of controllable stress, be they fitness, professional, or social. The  small amounts of stress that you are able to handle and conquer will help train your mind and body to deal with those unavoidable uncontrollable stressors in life.

But how do you keep the frontal cortex activated when the uncontrollable stress comes into play? The easiest and simplest way to do that is through the use of biofeedback, and slowing your breath rate down to a more optimal functioning level. By changing your breath rate, you change your heart rate. If you can get those two to dance together in sync, moving at the same beat, then you have created physiological balance. Both the autonomic nervous system and the central nervous system will preform better and keep the frontal lobes in an active state.

There are breathing programs that you can purchase for home use such as MY Calm Beat or M Wave, which I have both used and recommend. There are other things that you can do to help keep your brain balanced, depending on the different variables.

Remember, not all stress is bad; it is how we handle it that counts. Handle your stress, don’t let it handle you.

Self Inflicited ADD/ADHD – OUCH!!

Most of us take pride in how well we multi task and juggle multiple things at the same time.  We must, if we expect to meet the expectations of our bosses, teachers, and friends.  That’s not counting the additional work of the spouse or parent and all the normal daily stresses that come along with it.  We live in a world that sends information to us 24/7 in every way imaginable, often simultaneously.

The brain is not set up to process information like this; our brain is not designed to multi task.  Our brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time, whatever it decides is the most important, and that is usually what is most closely related to our basic survival.  When you ask the brain to focus on more than one task at a time, it must switch between tasks.

For example, if you are driving, talking on your cell, looking at your GPS for directions, and consequently you miss the exit, it is because your brain is switching back and forth, attending to each activity.  There is a lag time when switching between different tasks, although he would hardly notice it.

Too much information too quickly can lead to a brain freeze.  The feeling that you have too much information to process is a common occurrence, and the term “information fatigue” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2009.  We are starting to realize that information overload leaves us frustrated and emotionally depleted.  The term “Brain fart” already has its own Wikipedia page.

When we are in this fatigued state, we can make decisions that we might later regret.  By switching between so many stimuli, we leave ourselves depleted and distracted, the exact opposite of  the state in which to make best decisions.  When our brain is being bombarded with information, it tends to favor ease over accuracy.  Do you think a quick decision is the best decision?

There are many things you can do to improve your brain functioning, but here are 3 simple suggestions to think about:  1) Limit the amount of information your brain receives at one time.  2) Focus on one task at a time. 3) Give your brain time and space to integrate information and make the connections.

Take care of your brain.

 

 

The Power to Say No – How The Brain Self Regulates

It is late afternoon and your energy is dragging, a cookie would be a nice pick me up right about now.  Do you make a healthy choice and suppress the craving, or do you make a less healthy choice and eat the cookie?  The level of difficulty you have with saying no depends on how your brain self regulates.

Self regulation is part of  your self control, negativity bias, emotional resilience, confidence and social skills.  Self regulation is involved in your emotions, thinking, feelings, and is a function of interactions between the brain and the body.

Scientists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have identified the neural processes that a part of  self regulation.  There are two systems that take control of our decision making behavior, both in the frontal lobes, and they compete for control.  In the September 26 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience Caltech published a paper about these competing brain systems.  In some cases, the two systems guide behavior in the same direction, and in some cases they don’t.  The outcome of the decision is determined by which of the two systems take control.

Evidence shows that people make decisions by assigning different values to various options.  We select what we value the most.  The ability to make the right decision depends on whether the brain can activate the appropriate system, the one that values the healthier choice, in this case, not eating the cookie.

The two areas of the brain involved in self regulation are the dorsolateral prefrontal cortecx (dlPFC) which is behind the temples, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in the middle of the forehead just above the eyes. Each area plays a very different role in the self regulation process, and the brain’s ability to switch between these areas is not instantaneous and can take a few seconds.

Caltech research found that activity in two different brain areas correlated with how much we want an item.  When a volunteer tried to suppress a craving the vmPFC initially appeared to drive the behavior, and the dlFPC seemed to take over when the volunteer tried to rein in their appetite.   The research offers a reason as to why it is so difficult to control your behavior. You may think about the cookie, start to go for it and then suddenly you have your better judgment take over.

For those that want more information, the title of the paper is, “Cognitive regulation during decision making shifts behavioral control between ventromedial and dorsolateral prefrontal value systems.”  For those  that want to work on your own self regulation skills, visit www.mybrainsolutions.com and try a free trial with their brain training games that are scientifically designed to build these types of skills.

 

 

 

 

8 Tips to help you set and achieve your goals.

Do you ever feel like you are drifting through life?  You are working really hard but not getting anywhere. Goal setting is a powerful tool to help you achieve what you want to achieve. Some people are able to set goals on their own, while others may use a therapist to help in the process.  Here are 8 tips you can use to help you set and achieve your goals.

– Visualize what you desire.
– List the benefits you will get from attaining your goals.
– Make your goals a strong personal priority.
– Conceive how your life will change when you reach your goals.
– Schedule time frames to accomplish each goal.
– Ask for support from others who have achieved the goals you desire.
– Stay focused on your goals.
– Stay committed, don’t quit and visualize it happening.