ABC Wellness Clinic - Light and Sound Therapy for Learning Disabilities
light & sound

Learning Disabilities


Studies of AVS and Learning Disabilities

Many research studies have been conducted on the efficacy of AVS for the treatment of learning disorders. Much of the early research had been done by Carter and Russell (1993, 1994, 1995) who examined changes in test performance in children with learning disabilities using brainwave entrainment and auditory and visual stimulation.

Carter and Russell (1993) conducted a pilot study using AVS and measured changes in academic performance and behavioral functioning of 26 boys with learning disabilities between the ages of 8 and 12 years.

Behavior changes noted by teachers and parents demonstrated some improvement in academic interest and attention. Teachers reported that students appeared less anxious, more self-contained, and demonstrated more anger control and improved coordination and intellectual pursuits. Parents reported more compliance from children and less impulsive behaviors.

A later study by Carter and Russell (1994) demonstrated the increase in Verbal IQ of 4.30 points in the experimental group after 20 sessions of AVS, and an increase of 9.20 points after 40 AVS sessions, which were significantly greater than the changes demonstrated in the placebo and control groups.

In a related study, Patrick (1994) used 15 sessions of EEG driven AVS with 25 children with ADHD. Results revealed highly significant EEG changes and test score changes. The participants also demonstrated significant gains in controlling impulsivity and attention.

Micheletti (1998) compared four treatment groups of 99 ADHD children ranging from 7 to 13 years of age. The treatment groups consisted of an AVS Group, an AVS and Stimulant Medication Group, a Stimulant Medication Group, and a Self-Selected Comparison Group.

All groups were tested off medication to evaluate differences at baseline.

Cognitive function was evaluated using a variety of achievement tests.

Behavioral changes were also noted. The study also evaluated the effectiveness of the stimulant medication (Ritalin and Adderall) and the efficacy of combining AVS and medication.

Both the AVS and the AVS/Stimulant Medication Group demonstrated significant statistical cognitive and behavioral changes. The AVS training Group demonstrated statistical changes 55.6% of the time. The AVS/Stimulant Group demonstrated changes 88.9% of the time. The Stimulant Only Group demonstrated less change (33.0% of the time) when compared to the AVS and AVS/Stimulant Groups. The Self Selected Comparison Group indicated no statistical change on cognitive or behavioral dependent measures over time.

Brainwave Changes with AVS

In many studies, the induction into certain brainwave states has been found to increase or decrease brain activity through the "entrainment" process (Lubar, 1991; Mann, Lubar, Zimmerman, Miller, Muenchen, 1992; Othmer & Othmer, 1992; Tansey, 1990; 1991; 1993).

"Entrainment" is a process that occurs when brainwave activity falls into a specific cadence or rhythm through the use of repetitive and recurrent presentation of light and sound pulses. Brainwave entrainment through the use of auditory and visual stimulation (AVS) affects electroencephalographic (EEG) output (a measure of brainwave activity), and can result in the suppression or enhancement of specific brainwave frequencies (Lubar, 1991).

Studies supported evidence that changing the cerebral electrical activity associated with LD/ADHD improved symptoms and enhanced cognitive performance (Lubar, 1991; Olmstead, 2003; Patrick, 1994; Russell, 1997). Light or photic driven EEG neurofeedback found improved regulation of irregular or over aroused/under aroused brainwave states which affect learning and attending, yielding in increased neuroactivation (Boyde, 1998; Carter & Russell, 1993, 1994; Patrick, 1994; Siever, 2000).

What is a Learning Disability?

Learning Disability (LD) is a disorder that affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways: as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read, write, or do math.

What are the types of learning disabilities?

LD is a broad term that covers a pool of possible causes, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. Because of this it is difficult to diagnose or to pinpoint the causes. Learning Disabilities can be divided up into three broad categories. These types of learning disabilities include:

  • Developmental speech and language disorders
  • Academic skills disorders
  • "Other" a catch-all that includes certain coordination disorders and learning handicaps not covered by the other terms

Each one of these categories includes a number of more specific disorders.

Source: National Institutes of Health, 1993
ABC Wellness Clinic - Light and Sound Therapy for Learning Disabilities

What causes learning disabilities?

No one knows what causes learning disabilities as of now. There are too many possibilities to pin down the cause of the disability with certainty. A leading theory among scientists is that learning disabilities stem from subtle disturbances in the brain structures and functions. It is more important, however, that families not dwell on the causes but rather move forward in finding ways to get the right help. For a list of national and state resources please explore our page Where to Find Help.

How can I determine if my child has a learning disability?

Children reach certain "milestones" of development: the first word, the first step, and so forth. Both doctors and parents are watching for these developmental milestones. Learning disorders may be informally flagged by observing significant delays in the child's skill development. A 2-year delay in the primary grades is usually considered significant.

While children can be informally flagged by using observation techniques, actual diagnosis of learning disabilities is made using standardized tests that compare the child's level of ability to what is considered normal development for a person of that age and intelligence. Test outcomes depend not only on the child's actual abilities but on the reliability of the test and the child's ability to pay attention and understand the questions. For more information on the assessment and placement process, please visit Assessment in our LD In-Depth section.