Potential targets for the treatment of ADHD using transcranial electrical current stimulation

Prog Brain Res. 2021;264:151-170. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2021.01.011.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disease with a prevalence of 2%-7.5% among the population. It is characterized by three core symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Although the majority of ADHD patients respond to a combination of psychotherapy and standard pharmacotherapy with Methylphenidate, there is a significant minority of patients that do not respond to these substances. Additionally, the treatment with Methylphenidate can cause a variety of side effects like insomnia, headache, decreased appetite, and xerostomia. It would be favorable to have an alternative treatment-option that could circumnavigate the shortcomings of traditional pharmacological treatments. Recent results show that transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) might offer a promising approach. Since research has shown that ADHD is associated with various alterations in brain activity, brain stimulation methods targeting different facets of neuronal functions are currently under investigation. In this article, we briefly review different tES techniques like transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) and explain the modes of action of these brain stimulations. We will specifically focus on transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) as a potential method of treating ADHD.

Keywords: ADHD; Non-invasive brain stimulation; Transcranial alternating current stimulation; Transcranial direct current stimulation; Transcranial random noise stimulation.

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / drug therapy
  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation