The Role of Biofeedback in Treating ADD and other Mental Symptoms

By Philip Bate, Ph. D

(Important Note: At we stress the importance of finding the physical CAUSES of severe mental symptoms as this is the most certain way of understanding them and successfully treating them. However, it is understood that sometimes the causes can be elusive and only symptomatic treatment is available through nutrients and other drug-free means. In these cases, biofeedback is a non-invasive, non-toxic method that could play a role in alleviating symptoms. Biofeedback is simply observing one’s brain wave patterns on a screen and learning to control them and thus control symptoms they represent.

It’s interesting to me that perhaps the most important discovery in the science of biofeedback has so little really competent research. And, it seems that much of that very important research was done by a man who died before he could publish.

This important discovery is simply EEG biofeedback training at the frequency of 13Hz [frequencies explained below] can and does “cure” many symptoms, including those of ADD/ADHD, autism, brain damage, and even depression. (Because of the FDA, and lobbyist groups for the AMA, APA, drug manufacturers, et al, it’s not safe to use the “cure” word, but instead “train”).

It all started back in the 60’s. Dr Barry Sterman, a VA researcher, found that cats trained to raise the 13 Hz frequency of brain output didn’t die when given toxic materials. All other cats not trained did. He published this, but it was largely ignored by the biofeedback community.

However, Dr Quirk, a prison psychiatrist, read this paper, and became interested. He started to research this particular training, and eventually, he trained many persons in this area. Unfortunately, he died before publishing his voluminous papers and research. Included in his unpublished papers is the description of this training given to nearly 3000 prisoners, ranging from simple felonies to violent ones. The recidivism rate for these so trained was only 15%, compared to 70% or more. (Recidivism means that the criminal is released from prison, and commits more crimes and returns to prison.)

He also started some friends and professional associates looking into this same training for ADD/ADHD, depression, and several other mental/physical problems. Dr. Von Hilsheimer in Orlando has been using this EEG biofeedback for many years, and uses it for many complaints, although his main forte is ADD/ADHD. He even offers a money-back guarantee, and has yet to give money back. His statistics show that 85% of all diagnosed ADD/ADHD persons can be relieved of all such symptoms within 60 sessions. Of the remaining 15%, he has found them to be misdiagnosed, and actually autistic or brain damaged. Even those can be trained successfully, but it may take as many as 200 sessions.

There are several other biofeedback practitioners quietly doing the same thing. Very conservative estimates show that well over 200,000 children and adults have been treated with this simple training. It’s not brain surgery, and anyone with average intelligence can do it. What’s lacking is a biofeedback machine, and the training – simple though it i

Another problem is that many practitioners depend on the income from this biofeedback, and letting this secret of simplicity get out, might hurt that income. A vested interest to be sure in NOT publishing, and letting it out how simple it really is.

Let’s backtrack a bit here, and explain exactly what biofeedback is, and how it works.

The electroencephalograph (EEG) was called a “quack machine” when it was first introduced. Today, many MD offices have one, as it’s very useful in finding epilepsy, brain tumors, and in determining brain death. However, few MD’s use it for biofeedback training, and even fewer are knowledgeable about this usage.

There are several different frequency “bands” of very small voltages (measured in millionths of a volt) emanating from the brain. By placing electrodes onto a few spots on the head with a conductive material gel or paste (or even salt water), and using very sensitive amplifiers, we can measure these “brain waves” in frequency and amplitude.

There are several bands (named by early researchers), and each band is somewhat different from the other, depending on the state of mind of the subject. Because of individuality, these bands overlap to some extent, and the definitions of them may vary somewhat. These bands are named by Greek letters.

These are as follows:

Delta waves(0-3 Hz) are characterized by deep dreamless unmoving sleep.

Theta waves (4-7 Hz) are sometimes used to train subjects towards hypnotic and meditation trances. It has also been used for healing purposes.

Alpha waves (8-12 Hz) are produced when in a very relaxed state of mind. It is probably most recognized as that state reached while watching TV, in a meditative state, or under hypnosis.

Beta waves (12-38 Hz) means that the brain is active. It is actually thinking. There are a few very important subdivisions of Beta. Low Beta, (usually considered as 12-16 Hz) is characterized by good steady thinking. The specific frequency band of 12-14 Hz is now more often called SMR (SensiMotor Response), and is the focus of ADD/ADHD training. Low amplitude of brainwaves in this region is a symptom of ADD/ADHD (and many other emotional disorders that are helped or eliminated by biofeedback training in this range). It has been found by a very few researchers that biofeedback training above this range (higher beta) can sometimes increase symptoms of ADD/ADHD. These studies are controversial, however the system normally used inhibits these frequencies anyway.

There is also a gamma band (above 40 Hz), but it’s not of interest to us in this training.

If you hook up anyone to a biofeedback machine, you can see the complex waveform coming from the subject’s brain, sort of like a repeating graph on a computer screen. This waveform can be filtered by electronic filters so that you can observe only a few of the bands (without the whole spectrum confusion). This allows training for the 12-14 Hz, and at the same time, keeping the HiBeta (20-38) low. This is all there is to it. The trainee sits at a computer, and concentrates on a screen, trying to raise one signal level while keeping the other low. Like I said above, “it ain’t brain surgery.”

Ritalin and other drugs are NOT considered “good” treatments. It’s the same basic formula as the street drug “Speed”, and it is addictive. For lots of specific papers on the danger of Ritalin, go to the web site

Since a series of biofeedback “treatments” can be costly for the average household – let alone those with two or more children needing it – and it’s so simple to do, a leasing option of the biofeedback machine makes a lot of sense. (How does $200 for 60 sessions compare to $3000+?). A new company Biofeedback Home Training Inc was set up by myself to do just that. The web site listed above has all the details.

Dr Bate is a retired Orthomolecular Psychologist, living in the West Palm Beach area. He made several important discoveries during his practicing years in Orlando and Stuart. He was the first to publish three findings in the Orthomolecular Medical Bulletin – vitamin B12 lowers high blood pressure in most women; the “pill” inhibits uptake of B12, and often increases intake of copper; and unrecognized corn allergy causing many, in not most, chronic headaches. He has an altruistic orthomolecular web site offering free advice on many problems, both mental and physical. ( He started Home Biofeedback Inc as he has no biofeedback practice to protect, and the present system is too expensive.