Doctors warn against rush to neurotherapy
NEUROTHERAPY, also called neurofeedback or brainwave training, is emerging as an alternative treatment for adults and children with conditions like anxiety and ADHD. The practice is based on a belief that the brain is changeable and can be reconditioned or retrained. Reporter Jaime Shurmer looks at the risks, costs and purported benefits of neurotherapy… A GROWING interest in neurotherapy to treat some mental illnesses and ADHD has sparked a warning by a doctors’ group.
The Perth Brain Centre (PBC) has clinics in Attadale and Currambine and is one of several facilities in Perth that claim to observe and influence the function of the brain.
As a registered chiropractor trained in various neurotherapy techniques, Daniel Lane opened the PBC in 2007 and describes the centre’s treatments as “cutting edge and evidence-based”.
He typically sees children with ADHD and learning disorders, and adults with anxiety or depression or chronic pain, charging $295 for QEEG brain scans with treatment sessions costing extra.
“We’re flat out,” he said. “We employed another OT (occupational therapist) recently. More people are looking to alternatives for doing counselling or taking medication.”
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller urged people to see their GP instead.
Dr Miller said there were concerns the scientific term ‘neuroplasticity’ was being used to support assertions that disorders like depression and ADHD could be ‘cured’.
“This is not evidence-based in any scientific sense and we are concerned that they are offering these therapies to vulnerable people who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury,” he said.
Dr Miller said GPs had the full picture of an individual’s health needs.
“Sit down with your GP and if necessary get referred to another credible specialist,” he said.
A disclaimer under Daniel Lane’s profile on the PBC website says he is a general registered chiropractor and says people may seek a second opinion from a registered specialist neurologist or medical practitioner prior to commencing treatment.
Mr Lane said most patients attended the clinic by word of mouth, but GP referrals were becoming more common.
“We are obviously disappointed with the recent comments from Dr Miller, however it is likely that he is simply misinformed or misunderstands the nature of the work we provide,” Mr Lane said.
He believed the science of neuroplasticity was not a field exclusive to one profession.
“Few healthcare professionals these days would be so bold as to offer ‘cures’ for conditions such as ADHD, depression or chronic pain,” he said.
“We take great care not to “over-promise” or to make unsubstantiated claims and the treatments we provide in clinic are based upon, or duplicate research from experts in their fields around the world from places like Harvard Medical School and The Mayo Clinic in the USA. They are not institutions associated with ‘fringe’ work.”
The School Psychologists Association conference will host Mr Lane as one of many speakers in September.
“While SPA does not see that there is a specific need for alternative neurotherapy practices, we remain curious and interested in regards to specific developments and current practice in the area of regulation,” SPAWA president Shannon Steven said.
Curtin researcher Martin Whitely is a known critic of over-prescribing ADHD medication for children.
“I accept the criticism by the AMA about it (neurotherapy) being potentially oversold but an over-medicalised approach can be just as dangerous,” Mr Whitely said.
He urged parents to establish the underlying cause of their child’s behaviour, be it sleep deprivation, bullying, undiagnosed eye-sight or hearing problems, bright but bored in class, or simply being younger than their classmates.