Does EEG-neurofeedback improve neurocognitive functioning in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? A systematic review and a double-blind placebo-controlled study

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2014 May;55(5):460-72. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12143. Epub 2013 Oct 30.


Background: The number of placebo-controlled randomized studies relating to EEG-neurofeedback and its effect on neurocognition in attention-deficient/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is limited. For this reason, a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study was designed to assess the effects of EEG-neurofeedback on neurocognitive functioning in children with ADHD, and a systematic review on this topic was performed.

Methods: Forty-one children (8-15 years) with a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis of ADHD were randomly allocated to EEG-neurofeedback or placebo-neurofeedback treatment for 30 sessions, twice a week. Children were stratified by age, electrophysiological state of arousal, and medication use. Neurocognitive tests of attention, executive functioning, working memory, and time processing were administered before and after treatment. Researchers, teachers, children and their parents, with the exception of the neurofeedback-therapist, were all blind to treatment assignment. Outcome measures were the changes in neurocognitive performance before and after treatment.

Clinical trial registration: NCT00723684.

Results: No significant treatment effect on any of the neurocognitive variables was found. A systematic review of the current literature also did not find any systematic beneficial effect of EEG-neurofeedback on neurocognitive functioning.

Conclusion: Overall, the existing literature and this study fail to support any benefit of neurofeedback on neurocognitive functioning in ADHD, possibly due to small sample sizes and other study limitations.

Keywords: Neurofeedback; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); efficacy; electroencephalogram (EEG); neurocognition; randomized controlled trial (RCT); review.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data