The three images shown here are brain maps of a slow brain wave called “theta,” which is generally regarded as a brainwave frequency between 4 and 8 cycles per second (also called “Hertz”). It is very common for persons with attention deficit disorder to show an unusually high amount of theta in their overall brain activity. It is thought that this is related to problems with “daydreaming” and also impulsivity. Also, it is common for theta to be seen in greater amounts over the center and front of the brain.
At the front of the brain are the “frontal lobes,” which play a key role in helping to manage attention and to manage impulses. The image which is labeled ADHD shows an area (in red) of high theta activity toward the front of the brain and was obtained with a person who was, in fact, diagnosed with an attention problem. Compare this with the image labeled NORMAL. This image also shows theta in white and red, but it is mostly positioned in the middle areas of the brain. This is where theta is usually seen in people without a clinically significant attention problem (note that we said “clinically significant,” because we all have an attention problem from time to time).
The third image is of a person diagnosed with a LEARNING DISABILITY. This is not an attention disorder, as such, but a problem with a specific learning task… like difficulty with reading or with writing. Note that the areas of theta with the Learning Disability extend toward the back of the brain and to the left. This is a pattern we often see when there is a problem with language. Some very important centers for language are located there.
“Brain maps” are important aids in the evaluation, but they should never be used alone. Other types of diagnostic assessments must also be employed to provide a complete picture. In treatment planning, they provide important information regarding where we want to focus neurofeedback training. Moreover, along with other types of analysis involving statistical comparisons to a normative database, they can help to identify certain types of brain injuries.