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Transcranial direct current stimulation improves clinical symptoms in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Abstract

Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the prefrontal cortex has repeatedly been shown to improve working memory. As patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are characterized by both underactivation of the prefrontal cortex and deficits in working memory that correlate with clinical symptoms, it is hypothesized that the modulation of prefrontal activity with tDCS in patients with ADHD increases performance in working memory and reduces symptoms of ADHD. To test this hypothesis, fifteen adolescents with ADHD (12–16 years old, three girls and 12 boys) were treated according to the randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled, crossover design with either 1 mA anodal tDCS over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or with the sham protocol 5 days each with a 2 weeks pause between these conditions. Anodal tDCS caused a significant reduction in clinical symptoms of inattention and impulsivity in adolescents with ADHD compared to sham stimulation. The clinical effects were supported by a significant reduction in inattention and hyperactivity in a standardized working memory test (QbTest). The described effects were more pronounced 7 days after the end of stimulation, a fact which emphasizes the long-lasting clinical and neuropsychological changes after tDCS. This study provides the first evidence that tDCS may reduce symptoms of ADHD and improve neuropsychological functioning in adolescents and points on the potential of tDCS as a form of treatment for ADHD.

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Correspondence to Michael Siniatchkin.

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All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

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Soff, C., Sotnikova, A., Christiansen, H. et al. Transcranial direct current stimulation improves clinical symptoms in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Neural Transm 124, 133–144 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00702-016-1646-y

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Keywords

  • ADHD
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation
  • Working memory