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Hope for thousands with ADHD as scientists say new brain treatment can ‘transform’ lives of sufferers
- University of Surrey researchers recruited 23 unmedicated children with ADHD
- They took a two-week programme of brain stimulations and cognitive training
- More than half showed significant improvements in symptoms after the 2 weeks
A brain treatment that eases symptoms of ADHD could ‘transform’ the lives of children and their families, experts say.
Scientists have discovered non-invasive brain stimulation, combined with cognitive training, can significantly improve symptoms of the disorder in youngsters.
The condition is renowned for affected people’s attention, activity and impulsivity, and affects around 5 per cent of children in the UK.
Current treatment includes medicine or therapy, or a combination of both.
As part of a new clinic trial the team, including researchers from the University of Surrey, recruited 23 unmedicated children aged between six and 12 who had ADHD.
As part of a new clinic trial the team, including researchers from the University of Surrey, recruited 23 unmedicated children aged between six and 12 who had ADHD. The children underwent a two-week programme of brain stimulation that involved running a mild electrical current on the brain through two electrodes
The children underwent a two-week programme of brain stimulation that involved running a mild electrical current on the brain through two electrodes.
This took place while the children received cognitive training, which focuses on building specific skills such as attention, problem solving or reading comprehension.
They found 55 per cent of the children showed significant improvements in their ADHD symptoms, as reported by their parents.
This was compared to 17 per cent of children in the control group who received a placebo brain stimulation during cognitive training.
Improvements were maintained three weeks after the end of the treatment, the researchers said.
They also detected changes in the children’s brain electrical activity patterns that continued at the follow-up appointment.
Professor Roi Cohen Kadosh, co-lead of the study, said: ‘I believe that the scientific community is duty-bound to investigate and develop evermore effective and longer-lasting treatments for ADHD.
‘The findings we demonstrate in our study suggest that a combination of transcranial direct current stimulation (tRNS), which is shown to be safe with minimal side effects, has the potential to transform the lives of children and their families.
‘The results from this proof-of-concept study, together with previous results we received using tRNS, increase our confidence that in the future non-invasive brain stimulation may be able to provide an alternative to medication as a treatment pathway for children.’
Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem also worked on the study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
Dr Mor Nahum, from the Hebrew University, added: ‘This is an important first step in offering new therapeutic options for ADHD.
‘Future studies, with larger and more varied samples, should help establish this as a viable therapy for ADHD, and help us understand the underlying mechanisms of the disorder.’
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural condition defined by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
It affects around five per cent of children in the US. Some 3.6 per cent of boys and 0.85 per cent of girls suffer in the UK.
Symptoms typically appear at an early age and become more noticeable as a child grows. These can also include:
- Constant fidgeting
- Poor concentration
- Excessive movement or talking
- Acting without thinking
- Inability to deal with stress
- Little or no sense of danger
- Careless mistakes
- Mood swings
- Difficulty organising tasks
- Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
- Inability to listen or carry out instructions
Most cases are diagnosed between six and 12 years old. Adults can also suffer, but there is less research into this.
ADHD’s exact cause is unclear but is thought to involve genetic mutations that affect a person’s brain function and structure.
Premature babies and those with epilepsy or brain damage are more at risk.
ADHD is also linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, Tourette’s and epilepsy.
There is no cure.
A combination of medication and therapy is usually recommended to relieve symptoms and make day-to-day life easier.
Source: NHS Choices