Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) combined with cognitive training in adolescent boys with ADHD: a double-blind, randomised, sham-controlled trial.
Westwood SJ., Criaud M., Lam S-L., Lukito S., Wallace-Hanlon S., Kowalczyk OS., Kostara A., Mathew J., Agbedjro D., Wexler BE., Cohen Kadosh R., Asherson P., Rubia K.
BACKGROUND: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) could be a side-effect-free alternative to psychostimulants in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although there is limited evidence for clinical and cognitive effects, most studies were small, single-session and stimulated left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). No sham-controlled study has stimulated the right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC), which is the most consistently under-functioning region in ADHD, with multiple anodal-tDCS sessions combined with cognitive training (CT) to enhance effects. Thus, we investigated the clinical and cognitive effects of multi-session anodal-tDCS over rIFC combined with CT in double-blind, randomised, sham-controlled trial (RCT, ISRCTN48265228). METHODS: Fifty boys with ADHD (10-18 years) received 15 weekday sessions of anodal- or sham-tDCS over rIFC combined with CT (20 min, 1 mA). ANCOVA, adjusting for baseline measures, age and medication status, tested group differences in clinical and ADHD-relevant executive functions at posttreatment and after 6 months. RESULTS: ADHD-Rating Scale, Conners ADHD Index and adverse effects were significantly lower at post-treatment after sham relative to anodal tDCS. No other effects were significant. CONCLUSIONS: This rigorous and largest RCT of tDCS in adolescent boys with ADHD found no evidence of improved ADHD symptoms or cognitive performance following multi-session anodal tDCS over rIFC combined with CT. These findings extend limited meta-analytic evidence of cognitive and clinical effects in ADHD after 1-5 tDCS sessions over mainly left dlPFC. Given that tDCS is commercially and clinically available, the findings are important as they suggest that rIFC stimulation may not be indicated as a neurotherapy for cognitive or clinical remediation for ADHD.