RESEARCH ON LEARNING DISORDERS
Many of the methods used and promoted to help people with learning disabilities are intended to help a person compensate for, or work around, their learning difficulties. Neurofeedback actually improves learning skills by training the areas of the brain relevant to learning or executing skills such as math, reading, and auditory and visual processing.
Research studies show that several areas of the brain coordinate in the learning process. These separate parts of the brain communicate with each other at extremely fast speeds. If the timing of the communication is even slightly off, there can be impairment in the ability to learn. New research shows that this “connectivity training” seems to consistently improve learning difficulties.
Neurofeedback training can improve the coordination and communication between different areas of the brain. Improved timing in the brain has a significant impact on one’s ability to learn. Neurofeedback directly targets the coordination and communication between areas of the brain to improve timing, and therefore learning.
CASE STUDIES ON LEARNING DISORDERS
D V M Bishop
Our ability to look at structure and function of a living brain has increased exponentially since the early 1970s. Many studies of developmental disorders now routinely include a brain imaging or electrophysiological component. Amid current enthusiasm for applications of neuroscience to educational interventions, we need to pause to consider what neuroimaging data can tell us. Images of brain activity are seductive, and have been used to give credibility to commercial interventions, yet we have only a limited idea of what the brain bases of language disorders are, let alone how to alter them.
Scope and findings
A review of six studies of neuroimaging correlates of language intervention found recurring methodological problems: lack of an adequate control group, inadequate power, incomplete reporting of data, no correction for multiple comparisons, data dredging and failure to analyse treatment effects appropriately. In addition, there is a tendency to regard neuroimaging data as more meaningful than behavioural data, even though it is behaviour that interventions aim to alter.
In our current state of knowledge, it would be better to spend research funds doing well-designed trials of behavioural treatment to establish which methods are effective, rather than rushing headlong into functional imaging studies of unproven treatments.
Electroencephalogram Biofeedback for Reading Disability and Traumatic Brain Injury [pdf]
Thornton KE Ph.D. and Carmody DP Ph.D.
Reading disabilities present major challenges to the educational system. The estimated prevalence rate for learning disabilities is 15% of the student population, with 6.5 million children requiring special education in 2002. Approximately 63% of these special education children have specific learning disabilities or speech and language problems without a concomitant physical disability. Between 28% and 43% of inmates in adult correctional facilities require special education (versus 5% in normal population), and 82% of prison inmates in the United States are school dropouts.
EEG and Behavioral Changes Following Neurofeedback Treatment in Learning Disabled Children [link]
Fernández T, Herrera W, Harmony T, Díaz-Comas L, Santiago E, Sánchez L, Bosch J, Fernández-Bouzas A, Otero G, Ricardo-Garcell J, Barraza C, Aubert E, Galán L, Valdés R
Neurofeedback (NFB) is an operant conditioning procedure, by which the subject learns to control his/her EEG activity. On one hand, Learning Disabled (LD) children have higher values of theta EEG absolute and relative power than normal children, and on the other hand, it has been shown that minimum alpha absolute power is necessary for adequate performance. Ten LD children were selected with higher than normal ratios of theta to alpha absolute power (theta/alpha). The Test Of Variables of Attention (TOVA) was applied. Children were divided into two groups in order to maintain similar IQ values, TOVA values, socioeconomical status, and gender for each group. In the experimental group, NFB was applied in the region with highest ratio, triggering a sound each time the ratio fell below a threshold value. Noncontingent reinforcement was given to the other group. Twenty half-hour sessions were applied, at a rate of 2 per week. At the end of the 20 sessions, TOVA, WISC and EEG were obtained. There was significant improvement in WISC performance in the experimental group that was not observed in the control group. EEG absolute power decreased in delta, theta, alpha and beta bands in the experimental group. Control children only showed a decrease in relative power in the delta band. All changes observed in the experimental group and not observed in the control group indicate better cognitive performance and the presence of greater EEG maturation in the experimental group, which suggests that changes were due not only to development but also to NFB treatment.