Neurofeedback for Elementary Students with Identified Learning Problems


  • Peter C. Orlando
  • Richard O. Rivera



Introduction. The goal of this research was to ascertain whether basic reading, reading comprehension, the reading composite, and IQ scores could be improved using neurofeedback. Pre-test and post-test reading and cognitive assessments were administered to sixth, seventh and eighth graders identified as having learning problems. Control and experimental groups were chosen at random. With the exception of three students, every student in the control and experimental group had previously been diagnosed with Specific Learning Disabilities or as Other Health Impaired according to State and Federal guidelines for special education services. The three students were medically diagnosed as having ADHD and were on a 504 Accommodation Plan. Method. The research began in late August 2001 with securing administrative and parental permissions. Student participation began during the last week in September and lasted through the last week in April. A day was set aside to administer QEEGs (also called “brain maps”) to the students in the experimental group. Protocols were developed by following the brain maps and by using clinical judgment after staffing the students with their teachers on a regular basis; their psychoeducational evaluations were also used to plan the protocols. Following the statistics on the biofeedback machines also influenced protocol decisions. Neurofeedback training was provided to the participants of the experimental group only. Both the experimental group and the control group had their Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) or 504 Plans plus their general curriculum plans. Neurofeedback training lasted approximately 30 to 45 minutes within each one-hour time block. The sessions were conducted weekly for the seven-month period. Some students received more sessions than others because of absences, field trips, testing and other natural rhythms of home and school life. The average number of sessions per student was 28. Results. Neurofeedback was more effective in improving scores on reading tests than no neurofeedback training. There were significant interactions between neurofeedback and time on basic reading. Wilks’ lambda ( ) = .69, F(1, 23) = 10.32, p < .01, on reading comprehension,  = .75, F(1, 23) = 7.62, p = .01, and on reading composite scores, = .65, F(1, 23) = 12.59, p < .01. Neurofeedback training was more effective in improving both the Verbal and Full-Scale IQ scores than no neurofeedback training. There was a significant interaction between neurofeedback and time on Verbal IQ, = .62, F(1, 21) = 12.71, p < .01, and on Full Scale IQ, = .56, F(1,21) = 16.50, p < .01. However, there was not a significant interaction between neurofeedback and time on Performance IQ, = .87, F(1, 21) = 3.00, p = .10. Discussion. The results support the hypothesis that biofeedback training is effective in improving reading quotients. Limitations of the study and ideas for further research are presented. Neurofeedback may be an effective supplement to special education in improving IQ and reading performance.