Neurofeedback for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Meta-Analysis of Clinical and Neuropsychological Outcomes From Randomized Controlled Trials

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016 Jun;55(6):444-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.03.007. Epub 2016 Apr 1.


Objective: We performed meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials to examine the effects of neurofeedback on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and neuropsychological deficits in children and adolescents with ADHD.

Method: We searched PubMed, Ovid, Web of Science, ERIC, and CINAHAL through August 30, 2015. Random-effects models were employed. Studies were evaluated with the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool.

Results: We included 13 trials (520 participants with ADHD). Significant effects were found on ADHD symptoms rated by assessors most proximal to the treatment setting, that is, the least blinded outcome measure (standardized mean difference [SMD]: ADHD total symptoms = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.11-0.59; inattention = 0.36, 95% CI = 0.09-0.63; hyperactivity/impulsivity = 0.26, 95% CI = 0.08-0.43). Effects were not significant when probably blinded ratings were the outcome or in trials with active/sham controls. Results were similar when only frequency band training trials, the most common neurofeedback approach, were analyzed separately. Effects on laboratory measures of inhibition (SMD = 0.30, 95% CI = -0.10 to 0.70) and attention (SMD = 0.13, 95% CI = -0.09 to 0.36) were not significant. Only 4 studies directly assessed whether learning occurred after neurofeedback training. The risk of bias was unclear for many Cochrane Risk of Bias domains in most studies.

Conclusion: Evidence from well-controlled trials with probably blinded outcomes currently fails to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD. Future efforts should focus on implementing standard neurofeedback protocols, ensuring learning, and optimizing clinically relevant transfer.

Keywords: ADHD; meta-analysis; neurofeedback; nonpharmacological treatment; risk of bias.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data*