Non-invasive brain mapping uncovers problem source, coordinates with drug-free remediation:

With reports of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on the rise among the nation’s youngsters, more and more parents find themselves at the pharmacy counter filling a prescription from their child’s physician. They also find themselves confused and apprehensive.  Is the problem really an attention deficiency? Will medication be the solution?

Such questions are well warranted, according to Ali Hashemian, Ph.D. Hashemian has long been concerned about the proliferating use of prescription drugs to treat students who have trouble concentrating in school. “Administering a controlled chemical substance with multiple known side effects to any child is a serious matter,” he states.

Seventeen years ago, he founded the Attention and Achievement Center to present alternatives for resolving children’s focus difficulties. An exciting option was the then-emerging technology of brain mapping. The neuropsychologist recognized that, with brain mapping, non-invasive testing could pinpoint brain areas that were not functioning correctly. Many types of focus and attention problems could be solved with training, not medication.

Too often, supposition, rather than science, is behind an ADD diagnosis, Hashemian explains. Problems as diverse as auditory processing disorders, depression, sleep disorders, and seizures can present symptoms that fall into the inattention category. Whether because of limited time, lack of expertise, or health insurance restrictions, the physician’s office is not likely to offer the testing necessary to confirm the root cause of a child’s difficulties.

“The principle of brain mapping has been around for roughly 40 years, but it is only over the past decade that technology has facilitated its expansion,” Hashemian notes. For one thing, it has taken time to build the comparative data bases that define normal levels of function in the various regions of the brain. Perhaps even more important, advances in computing power have allowed the testing process to migrate from huge supercomputers to today’s desktops, providing the tools to make brain mapping much more accessible.

The professionals at the Attention and Achievement Center use brain mapping to asses overall brain function and correlate that with known disorders such as depression, anxiety, learning disorders, ADHD, autism, and auditory processing disorder. In a non-invasive procedure taking less than an hour, a clinician places sensors around the client’s head to record electrical activity in 19 locations simultaneously. As the client takes a series of tests that require concentration, the feedback shows what is going on in each brain region, thus revealing the source of functional abnormalities. Then it becomes a matter of training the brain in a specified range and frequency that will generate improved function.

Hashemian points out that the brain mapping approach stands in marked contrast to spectral brain imaging, a technique that requires patients to ingest radioactive isotopes before being subjected to a brain scan. “Not only is spectral imaging a very invasive procedure, but it doesn’t lead to a treatment solution, so ultimately you fall back on medication,” he comments.

Remediation at the Center consists of a series of hour-long sessions in which clients gradually learn how to reach an attentive state of focus. For many children, it’s a calm state they have never known before. The vehicle is a movie that starts and stops according to the brain patterns produced. “Essentially, brain activity becomes like a remote control. The brain learns self-modulation according to the stop/start feedback,” Hashemian says, comparing it to learning how to ride a bike. “You don’t consciously think about what you are doing, but with experience you learn how to balance.”

Research studies confirm that this type of training enables the brain to create new neural networks that correct inattention difficulties. “It’s like working out at a gym,” Hashemian remarks. And, unlike prescriptions, the effects are long lasting. “The results are still present years later, while medication lasts for less than half a day,” he concludes.

The Attention and Achievement Center has facilities in five Bay Area locations: Pleasanton, Campbell, San Mateo, San Rafael and Walnut Creek. For more information, visit the website, www.drugfreeadd.com, or call (925) 416-1400.