Transcranial direct current stimulation for hyperactivity and noncompliance in autistic disorder

World J Biol Psychiatry. 2015;16(5):361-6. doi: 10.3109/15622975.2015.1014411. Epub 2015 Mar 24.


Objectives: To evaluate the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of inhibitory transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for the treatment of behavioural abnormalities of autistic patients.

Methods: Twelve young adult patients with autistic disorder were enrolled. All subjects presented intellectual disability and most of them had speech impairment. The Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) was administered as the primary outcome measure before and after a 2-week tDCS course. All subjects received 10 daily applications of 20 min/1.5 mA/cathodal (inhibitory) tDCS over the left dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex.

Results: Eight out of 10 study completers improved in their abnormal behaviours, reaching an average reduction of 26.7% of the total ABC score. The remaining two patients showed no changes. In the whole group of completers, among the five subscales contributing to the significant reduction of the total score, the most remarkable and statistically significant change was seen in the subscale assessing hyperactivity and non-compliance (-35.9%, P = 0.002). No adverse effects were reported.

Conclusions: Inhibitory tDCS improved the ABC rating scores for autistic behaviours. Owing to its ease of use, cost-effectiveness and the limited availability of specific treatment strategies, tDCS might be a valid therapeutic option to be tested in autistic patients.

Keywords: TMS; autism; intellectual disability; pervasive developmental disorders; tDCS.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis / etiology
  • Hyperkinesis / therapy*
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Speech Disorders / etiology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult