Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) in children with ADHD: A randomized, sham-controlled pilot study

Mitchell Schertz, Yael Karni-Visel, Jacob Genizi, Hofit Manishevitch, Menachem Lam, Ashraf Akawi, Michal Dudai, André A. Fenton, Marom Bikson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder with a pediatric prevalence of 5.2%.While medication treatment for ADHD is effective, it does not address all symptoms and a small but notable subgroup does not respond to medications. Adverse effects limit its use and some parents and participants resist use of medication. Thus, limitations of medication treatment for ADHD motivate searching for other therapeutic options. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) has been suggested as a treatment for children with ADHD, with mixed results to date. Protocol variables employed, including combined use of cognitive training (CT) and scheduling of sessions, may explain diverse findings to date. The aim of this study was to examine safety, feasibility and efficacy of tDCS combined with CT provided three-times-per week for one-month to treat children with ADHD. Methods: In a double blind, randomized, sham-controlled pilot study, 25 children with ADHD were randomized to receive 12 sessions of either anodal tDCS or sham-tDCS for 20 min combined with CT three-times-per-week for four weeks. The tDCS anode was over left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and cathode over vertex. Assessments were obtained prior to, after 6 sessions, 12 sessions and one-month after intervention. Results: No significant post-intervention differences were found between those receiving tDCS or sham-tDCS. Both groups demonstrated significant improvement on questionnaire measures of ADHD and executive function with mixed results seen on computerized performance measures. Overall, adverse effects were mild with no significant difference between groups. However, three children, all from the tDCS group, experienced headaches with two requiring temporary cessation and one requiring removal from the study. Conclusions: Anodal tDCS to the DLPFC using the above protocol in children with ADHD did not demonstrate additional treatment benefits beyond that of CT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-312
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Cognitive training
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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