Critique: Amon, K. & Campbell, A. (2008). Can children with AD/HD learn relaxation and breathing techniques through biofeedback video games?
In the 2008 volume of this Journal Amon and Campbell reported a successful trial of a commercially available biofeedback program, "The Wild Divine", in reducing symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in a group of children with ADHD and a control group. They introduced their study by suggesting that side effects of medications, the efficacy (perhaps they mean "ethics") of medicating young children, and the possibility of future drug use means that research into non-medical interventions for ADHD is important in providing a greater array of treatment options. We applaud this notion; although we take exception to their latter justification. What little evidence there is on this subject suggests that using a stimulant reduces the chances of substance abuse in ADHD (see Barkley, Fischer, Smallish & Fletcher, 2003 for review and the meta-analysis of Wilens, Faraone, Biederman & Gunawardene, 2003). Amon and Campbell seem to have selected biofeedback as an experimental treatment on the basis of literature which suggests that cognitive or physiological techniques such as relaxation and meditation can lead to positive behavioural, emotional, and somatic outcomes for normal samples of children. They go on to suggest that the "relaxation" afforded by controlled breathing techniques contained in the experimental biofeedback game would lead to greater control over nervous system activity and hence performance in children with ADHD. No physiological measures are reported. In discussing their data, Amon and Campbell (2008) claimed: "the findings from this study show that the Wild Divine video game, as a biofeedback system, has the potential to produce positive developments on ADHD symptoms and disruptive behaviours, with few side effects" (pp.82). We contend that several methodological, reporting, statistical, and interpretative problems make this conclusion difficult to sustain. We will take each of these problems in turn.
Australian Journal of Educational and developmental psychology
Psychological Methodology, Design and Analysis