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New Concept in Testing and Helping ADHD using GSR Biofeedback

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I would like to bring to your attention a new concept in ADD testing. An objective physiological measure of ADHD has been elusive. However, research by Jason Alster MSc has shown that when ADD persons try to sit still, do a boring task, or concentrate- they actually enter stress as measured by labile electro - dermal activity

(EDA , GSR ). Whereas the GSR was traditionally used to teach relaxation it was overlooked as a tool to teach relaxed concentration being dwarfed by the popular and successful neurofeedback.

Measuring electron flow in a circuit the body operates largely by a series of electrical impulses which have been shown to follow certain pathways and measure changes in the electrical resistance or the ability of the tissue to conduct electricity. The GSR activity marker is positive in the majority of ADD clients tested. Once tested, then the GSR biofeedback may be used to improve the stress result with different techniques. A protocol using this valid objective physiological marker has just been published in a video- "Guide for GSR Biofeedback Techniques for the Natural ADHD Practitioner" (

Using the GSR protocol only takes 10 minutes to perform. The test is valid for children as well as adults and helps parents determine if their ADHD children need intervention. The measure may then be used to match a personal technique protocol to the client depending on what type of technique helps improve the GSR from lability to stability during rest.

The GSR is measured as labile and steadily increases in amplitude when the ADHD child tries to sit quietly for 2 minutes. The GSR is then increasingly more labile during an eyes closed condition. This is in contrast to the GSR in anxiety where there is usually a decrease during a relaxing eyes closed baseline condition. In some instances- the GSR in ADHD is stable - however, will not return to baseline after prompted with a mild stimulus like noise. This shows that a symptom of ADHD when trying to sit quietly and concentrate -is acting like a stress-or for him her. This is not unlike the "disorientation" experienced in dyslexics when trying to read.

Many ADHD clients- upon producing a stable GSR after a biofeedback assisted relaxed concentration technique - will claim when asked-that this is the first time ever they felt what relaxation /concentration is. This may be compared to someone not having ever tasted a tasty food like an orange. You can't describe it to them. However, once they taste it- they know what it feels like. So too, it turns out, with the sense of relaxation, focus in ADHD. When asked to compare this sensation with the sensation of an ADHD medication- the majority of ADHD people will say that the natural biofeedback induced sensation is better than medication- and medication does not "feel well" even though it does help them concentrate. This shows that medication like Ritalin has a different mode of action working to help ADHD than natural and behavioral methods.
The relaxation and relaxed concentration response is natural and seems to be lacking in many people with ADHD. These responses might have been lacking at birth or were compromised with an unbalancing childhood medical problem (Ears nose and throat, asthma,-sleep disorder-medical operation). However, once re-learned or acquired - the ADHD person can re-produce this
"sensation" upon need. Like learning art or music- some are born with it- but all can learn to be artists or musicians with the proper instruction. This objective physiological test is easy to replicate only with the most sensitive /graphic GSR biofeedback equipment(like Thought Stream or Mindlife for example). My hope is that this simple and valid measure will be used as a future screening test in ADHD clinics and schools as well as by biofeedback practitioners helping ADHD.

A bit of the history in how this method was developed. I began treating children with ADD quite unexpectedly in 1991. As a biofeedback practitioner and part of an anxiety clinic in Tel Aviv, Israel, I had absolutely no experience in treating children but was doing quite well with adults suffering from stress disorders and teenagers who had test anxiety and social phobias. The biofeedback clinic had just opened and each type of patient was a new experience.

With medical- technological training in neuro-electrodiagnostics and sleep/wake disorders, I was more into the neurological and psycho- physiological disorders. A child psychologist working with me wanted to try biofeedback on ADD. Then he had said that there was no treatment and no objective test for this poorly understood syndrome. The only remedy at the time was Ritalin although reports about EEG (electroencephalogram) neuro - biofeedback and Joel Lubar's research with Neurofeedback were just coming out (1991) demonstrating that ADHD can respond to a behavioral method. At first I found that EMG (testing muscle tension)was increased in ADHD and there was already a study showing that EMG biofeedback did not help in ADHD.

However, I found that found that GSR ( electrodermal resistance) was better and easier to use in ADHD than EMG. At the time there were no studies of GSR biofeedback for ADD- so I had to go it alone. After starting to treat a handful of children with biofeedback, the psychologist I was working with had to leave the unit and I had to suddenly take over his patients. All I knew then about ADD was from a television program showing a hyperactive child literally jump off the walls and I worried about what this child would do to the biofeedback equipment! I had absolutely no knowledge of learning disorders either. I mention this lack of knowledge for a reason. I had to begin treating ADD without a prior predisposition to what was written in the literature and had to see for myself what worked and fast.
On my very first ADD client I performed a regular biofeedback stress baseline for anxiety.

That is, I hooked the child up to galvanic skin resistance (GSR) sensors, muscle and peripheral temperature monitors, but not EEG. I had to start to treat ADD with what I knew and that is how to treat stress and anxiety. I was lucky. My very first patient's baseline EMG (electromyogram or muscle activity potential) showed that the more she sat quietly the EMG gained in amplitude over time. That is, sitting quietly was tense for her. I tried relaxation training and she improved her baseline in just 6 sessions and began to do better both at home and in school. This was not supposed to happen. Biofeedback in ADD was supposed to be a stubborn neurological problem that takes 40- 60 EEG biofeedback sessions to treat. Wanting to find an effective, alternative method to offer those young people and especially parents who wouldn't, or didn't want to use medication for ADHD. At least these children wouldn't be left untreated.

In my readings at the time, a number of avenues were being pursued in the treatment of ADD. Some of these were nutritional, sensory integration, guided imagery, art therapy, natural meditation, yoga, Bach flower remedies, homeopathy, chiropractic, and the use of aromatic oils. In biofeedback, animated computer games were just being introduced like Mindlife/Ultramind and Thought Stream.

I decided I could use each method and observe its effectiveness. I could try and develop an integrated and holistic approach matching the method to each child individually and determining the results by the GSR.
One of the first things that I found that can cause the GSR to become stable in ADD children and adults is holding a soft or smooth stone in your hand and studying a liquid water timer or sand clock. Other techniques include using the senses to relax like self massage, abdominal breathing, seated yoga, listening to a metronome, listening to a sea shell, guided imagery, smelling aromatic oils, and more.

Later, I found that by integrating accelerated learning techniques and study strategies such as speed reading, associative memory, mind mapping , and time management - children with ADHD and test anxiety began to reach their full potential and receive very high grades in school.

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Psychophysiologist,ADHD coach, learning specialist-electroneurodiagnostics, sleep wake research. Developed an efficient method (BEING IN CONTROL) of helping ADHD and test anxiety naturally using Multimodality Integrative Biofeedback, developed, (more...)
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New Concept in Testing and Helping ADHD using GSR Biofeedback

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