Alleviation of ADHD symptoms by non-invasive right prefrontal stimulation is correlated with EEG activity

Neuroimage Clin. 2020;26:102206. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102206. Epub 2020 Feb 6.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent disorder with effective pharmacological treatment that benefits most patients. However, about one-third fail to benefit while others search non-pharmacological alternatives, and for those options are scarce. One alternative treatment option is to alter abnormal right prefrontal cortex (rPFC) activity, given that rPFC abnormality has been repeatedly implicated in ADHD neurophathology. Here, we evaluated whether targeting the rPFC with multiple sessions of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which can modulate neuronal excitability, activity, and plasticity in a non-invasive manner, will affect clinical symptoms in adults suffering from ADHD. Concomitantly, we used EEG to characterize electrophysiological alterations induced by treatment and to search for correlation between baseline neuronal activity and clinical response. Forty-three drug free adults with ADHD were randomized to receive either Real, Active Control, or Sham treatment (13 females, age ranging 21-46; n = 15, 14, 14, respectively), and underwent three weeks of daily high-frequency (18 Hz) stimulation sessions. We found that Real treatment was safe and resulted in significant improvement of symptoms (η2p = 0.34; Cohen's d(against Sham) = 0.96; Cohen's d(against AC) = 0.68; p = 0.00085). Furthermore, based on EEG recorded within the first treatment session we established a novel biomarker, composed of the Alpha and Low-gamma power, which highly correlated the magnitude of the clinical outcome (r = 0.92, p = 0.0001). Taken together, the results of this pilot study indicate safety and effectiveness of rTMS directed to the rPFC for treatment of adult ADHD patients. The biomarker is suggested to reflect the responsiveness of the cortex to this rTMS intervention. Following validation of the results in larger samples, this study may represent a step towards a non-pharmacological treatment for adults with ADHD using EEG-based selection of optimal candidates for treatment.

Keywords: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Biomarker; Clinical-trial; Electroencephalogram; Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult