Neurofeedback: A Study Solution For GoodAlex Theoret
Rita only wanted a better tennis game, but she had trouble with low blood pressure and needed a little pep. “Honey,” she said to her chemist husband, “help?”
The result? Rita-line. Ritalin.
Adderall is amphetamine salts—like Ritalin, a stimulant. Doctors originally prescribed it for obesity, but quickly recognized its off-label calming effect, its focusing effect, on people diagnosed with ADHD.
These drugs work by freeing up dopamines in the brain. Dopamines, despite the “dope” in that first syllable, make us smarter, help us focus and understand. In our brains, dopamines make connections and organize thoughts.
Doctors think ADHD may disrupt dopamine circulation. They know stress and anxiety do. The final tennis match. The fifth major exam this week. The way everything’s riding on that one big exam for psychology class.
When our mothers were in college, the study drug of choice was strong coffee. In our generation, that three-day study binge for the Shakespeare final meant periodic doses of OTC helpers like NoDoz and Dexatrim—caffeine and ephedra.
But today’s students have high-powered prescription tools. They all know someone with ADHD, who has a stash of Adderall or Ritalin and who could use the reported $25 per pill they’ll sell it for during exams. Studies based on student interviews suggest that more than one in five may be using Adderall or Ritalin as study drugs to enhance their performance in school. The trend becomes especially pronounced this time of year – during semester-ending exams.
The problem with prescription-strength amphetamines is—well, they’re prescription-strength amphetamines. Like all drugs in that class, they’re potentially addictive.
A recent NPR report on study drugs like Adderall and Ritalin emphasized the addictive effect of these powerful amphetamines. These are serious drugs with serious side effects.
That’s because dopamine is hooked into the brain’s reward system. Having more dopamine circulating feels like getting a bonus. It feels like that extra ten points on the test, right then. That means not only do you feel focused and content as you study, but you want to continue feeling that way. “The more you use it,” one student reported, “the more of it you want to use.”
The problem is that the good feelings, feeling in control and focused—these stop when the drug passes through your system a few hours later. The problem with drugs like Adderall and Ritalin is that you have to get more to feel better. That’s addiction.
But the good news is we have non-pharmaceutical means of retraining the brain that doesn’t start down that slippery slope of the reward system. Of aiding in relaxation, concentration, and anxiety reduction. We’re talking non-addictive “bio-hacks” that can supercharge focus and learning without the potentially corrosive side-effects of addiction and—it goes without saying, maybe—the bad news of jail-time for breaking the law.
But we’re not talking about magic. It’s called neurofeedback and is possibly the most exciting new development in cognitive performance. It can deliver all the benefits of boosted brain power with no foreseeable drawbacks of pharmaceuticals. The FDA has already approved neurofeedback training for mitigating stress – like what many students feel faced with too many projects, too much reading, overscheduling, and the effects of procrastination. In fact, several organizations worldwide are looking into claims that neurofeedback works just as well as pharmas when it comes to helping kids with ADHD.
Neurofeedback may also help manage anxiety. How you feel facing that blank white screen and its infernal blinking cursor. Or that sixteen-step equation with symbols in it that you suddenly can’t remember seeing before.
Neurofeedback is designed to naturally help calm and focus the brain just as prescription drugs do. It can help students perform better, just like the drugs do.
But it’s not a drug. Neurofeedback brain training is non-invasive and 100% drug-free. You don’t buy it in the bathroom at 2AM from some kid who wants money for tickets to Nickelback. You don’t have to be dodging the cops.
Side effects of neurofeedback? Well let’s see, there’s relief, peace, a feeling of being prepared for whatever the bumps the world has in store for you. Most folks will take that sort of “side effect” all day long! And speaking of all day long, the good news is that when you get up from a session, that centered feeling stays with you. It doesn’t subside and leave you needy.
With neurofeedback, you’re training the brain in a positive, natural way. Kind of like what you’d do with a basket of balls and a backboard to improve your serve. You learn to relax into the game, focus and concentrate. And when the finals come? You ace them.
‘Tis the season for finals. And stress. And anxiety. Though pharmaceutical short cuts are tempting , they can end up creating long-term problems. Neurofeedback is the right cognitive performance tool for the long haul.
Now stop procrastinating and go study!