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In the UnRitalin Solution, we perform a series of comprehensive neurological tests on children to understand better how their brain is working, as well as to find out where it is strong and where it is weak.   In recent years, new advances in technology have made it possible to precisely measure brain electrical activity in order to help with the diagnosis of ADHD. Quantitative Electroencephalography, or a QEEG test, is one of the most reliable, non-invasive methods used in detecting the subtle neurological differences present in individuals with ADHD.  Clinical studies using QEEG discovered that this breakthrough technology has a 96% success rate in predicting conditions like ADHD and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).  Unlike conventional imaging methods like CT scans and MRIs, the QEEG test reflects more than just abnormalities in anatomical structures; the QEEG can also measure how well the brain functions and locate mild head injuries, which conventional imaging technologies sometimes fail to do.

The QEEG test works by picking up and recording electrical brain activity.  Essentially, there are four brain waves detected by electroencephalography tests – theta, delta, alpha, and beta waves.  The alpha wave represents a resting state, and is the most dominant wave pattern when the eyes are closed, or when we are awake but not doing much.  They usually disappear and are replaced by smaller, faster beta waves when we become drowsy or mentally busy – when we open our eyes or do intense mental work with our eyes closed.  In other words, the presence of alpha waves indicates an awake but resting state.  If the QEEG detects an alpha wave at a higher voltage than normal (8-13 Hz) when a child is awake, this would indicate a daydreaming state commonly found in children with ADHD inattentive types.

Delta and theta waves have lower frequencies, or move more slowly, than alpha and beta waves.  When a person is drowsy, the alpha waves disappear, followed by an increase in theta waves. The frequencies of theta waves become higher when we sleep, then become mixed with and give way to delta waves.  The presence of theta and delta waves in a waking, open-eye QEEG is normal, but only when the waves are small.  High amplitude slow waves are often a sign of neurological problems like ADHD or epilepsy.  About 80% of children with ADHD diagnoses often have this excess theta pattern.    If your child is found to have diminished beta activity and excess theta activity, this could confirm the suspicion that he or she has ADHD.

QEEG tests are not as accessible as MRIs or CT scans. They are used by clinicians with advanced training, and evaluations take time and can be expensive.  In my opinion, it is best to save QEEG for situations in which there is problem with the diagnosis, or when your child is not responding as he or she should with basic natural approaches.

QEEG tests are non-invasive tests that last as long as an hour or two.  Your child will be made to sit in a chair while a cap is placed on his or her head. This cap contains nineteen sensor sites, which will be filled with a gel through a blunt needle.  A Q-tip will be used to make sure the cap is in good contact with your child’s scalp.  Then the basic EEG is recorded by a clinician. This procedure takes about thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the diagnosis or what is detected in the EEG during the time of recording. Your child will be made to open his eyes, close his eyes, read silently, or listen to someone else do certain tasks. The QEEG is analyzed once the child has finished the EEG recording.

If your child is scheduled to take a QEEG test, make sure he or she does the following to get the best possible test results:

  • Get plenty of sleep over the two days before the test.  Drowsiness can affect the QEEG readings; often, sleep-deprived children fall into light sleep when they are made to close their eyes
  • Four hours before the test, give your child a full, nutritious meal.  The movement of frequency brain waves is usually affected when blood sugar levels are low.
  • If your child bathes on the day of the test, dry his or her hair thoroughly before you reach the clinic.

If you would like more information about QEEG testing, check out the following: