Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 123, Issue 10, pp 1219–1234 | Cite as

Transcranial direct current stimulation in children and adolescents: a comprehensive review

  • Ulrich PalmEmail author
  • Felix M. Segmiller
  • Ann Natascha Epple
  • Franz-Joseph Freisleder
  • Nikolaos Koutsouleris
  • Gerd Schulte-Körne
  • Frank Padberg
Psychiatry and Preclinical Psychiatric Studies - Review Article


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation method that has shown promising results in various neuropsychiatric disorders in adults. This review addresses the therapeutic use of tDCS in children and adolescents including safety, ethical, and legal considerations. There are several studies addressing the dosage of tDCS in children and adolescents by computational modeling of electric fields in the pediatric brain. Results suggest halving the amperage used in adults to obtain the same peak electric fields, however, there are some studies reporting on the safe application of tDCS with standard adult parameters in children (2 mA; 20–30 min). There are several randomized placebo controlled trials suggesting beneficial effects of tDCS for the treatment of cerebral palsy. For dystonia there are mixed data. Some studies suggest efficacy of tDCS for the treatment of refractory epilepsy, and for the improvement of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism. Interestingly, there is a lack of data for the treatment of childhood and adolescent psychiatric disorders, i.e., childhood onset schizophrenia and affective disorders. Overall, tDCS seems to be safe in pediatric population. More studies are needed to confirm the preliminary encouraging results; however, ethical deliberation has to be weighed carefully for every single case.


Developmental disorder Psychiatric disorder Epilepsy Cerebral palsy ADHD Ethics 



This work was supported by the German Center for Brain Stimulation (GCBS) research consortium (FKZ 01EE1403), funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

F. P. has received speaker’s honorarium from Mag&More GmbH and support with equipment from neuroConn GmbH, Ilmenau, Germany, and Brainsway Inc., Jerusalem, Israel.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Palm
    • 1
    Email author
  • Felix M. Segmiller
    • 1
  • Ann Natascha Epple
    • 2
  • Franz-Joseph Freisleder
    • 2
  • Nikolaos Koutsouleris
    • 1
  • Gerd Schulte-Körne
    • 3
  • Frank Padberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyKlinikum der Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  2. 2.KBO Heckscher-KlinikumMunichGermany
  3. 3.Department of Childhood and Adolescent PsychiatryKlinikum der Universität MünchenMunichGermany

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