Findings on tDCS Montages and ADHD

If you suffer from ADHD, you may have concerns over traditional treatment options that involve addictive medications with adverse side effects. tDCS is sometimes considered by individuals for this purpose, but it is not cleared or approved by the FDA for ADHD treatment. Still, there have been studies carried out over the years that hint at the technology’s potential feasibility, pending further analysis. Let’s familiarize ourselves with the condition itself and this stimulative technology.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this guide is not meant to promote tDCS as a medical treatment for any condition. tDCS therapy isn't FDA approved for ADHD and also isn't proven to cure or alleviate symptoms.

Table of Contents

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a disorder that affects millions of children, teenagers and adults in the United States. Many people who have it are completely unaware or haven't been diagnosed properly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's one of the most common developmental disorders that children face today. The disorder makes it difficult for people to remain focused on tasks or to think things through when faced with important decisions.

Children who suffer from ADHD tend to fall behind peers in school because they're unable to sit still or remain focused during class lectures or presentations. In adult life, ADHD can make it difficult for people to stay committed to tasks on the job or advance in their careers. ADHD also makes relating with other people difficult because those suffering from it tend to lack the ability to wait until their turn to speak or to share with others.

There are a number of potential causes for ADHD but scientists have no definitive answer to why some people experience this disorder. Most psychologists believe that ADHD is caused by a combination of factors that can include heredity, exposure to certain chemicals, and premature birth. In many cases, living with ADHD can be debilitating and prevent people from advancing in careers or having healthy relationships with others. It's also been associated with substance abuse disorders, as poor decision-making is one of the common symptoms.

How is ADHD Normally Treated?

After taking clinical tests to diagnose ADHD, a psychologist may suggest psychotherapy and behavioral modification to teach a patient how to develop skills they may use to manage their symptoms. Parents are given guidance on how to promote these skills and coping mechanisms, and advised to make sure their children are getting enough sleep, not spending too much time in front of the television or electronic devices, and eating a healthy diet. Medications such as Ritalin or Adderall may be prescribed as well.

The problem with ADHD medications is that they're associated with adverse side effects, addiction, and the possibility of losing effectiveness over time. There are potential concerns over overdoses and drug misuse over time, especially if someone develops a dependence on the medication. A minority of patients report needing dosage adjustments to get the same effects from these medications as time passes.

Some people become completely unresponsive to medication and traditional treatment methods. These are all reasons why people have started seeking alternative treatment methods to manage their ADHD.

What is tDCS?

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) uses electrical impulses to activate neurons in the brain. Studies have shown that using small electric currents might have an effect on mood and behaviors in people who suffer from chronic pain, depression, anxiety and ADHD. The National Library of Medicine has documented studies on a variety of technologies that use electrical impulses or magnetic fields to influence brain activity. Some of these studies have promising results, but it's too early at the moment to come to any concrete conclusions.

The way tDCS works is with two electrical diodes or electrodes, placed on the head, which are known as an anode and cathode. One of the electriode sends the electrical impulses while the other receives them, effectively directing the current through a targeted area in the brain. tDCS montage for ADHD might be different than for other types of disorders because a different area of the brain may be responsible for the symptoms someone is experiencing. Stimulating the brain in this manner is supposed to release certain hormones that are associated with behavior and mood and may make new neural connections in the brain over time.

Studies on tDCS Montage for ADHD

Researchers have studied how using tDCS technology in several ways influenced patients with ADHD to help determine where best to mount electrodes during treatment. Again, we should be clear that tDCS is not FDA cleared or approved for use in treating ADHD.

In one study, participants underwent treatments using three different configurations. The first was a sham treatment, where no electrical current was administered even though participants wore the device. Meanwhile, the other two treatments studied the anodal and cathodal placements to determine effectiveness.

When the anode was placed on the right frontal lobe, patients exhibited improved cognitive ability following treatment, including better focus, decreased reaction times to stimuli, and the ability to ignore one stimulus while focusing on another. The sample size wasn't sufficient to confirm whether tDCS could produce similar results for most patients.

Another study was conducted to determine which part of the brain was responsible for poor impulse control in patients suffering from ADHD. The study suggested that symptoms such as hyperactivity, poor concentration, and a lack of impulse control were all linked to abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. To test this hypothesis further, participants in the study underwent tDCS therapy sessions where the anode was placed over the frontal lobe of the brain. This enabled for electrical impulses to target the prefrontal cortex.

The latter study concluded that there were small to medium influences on impulse control, attention, and reaction time when this part of the brain was stimulated. This gives hope that future studies may be able to explore more effective ways of using tDCS to help ADHD patients manage their symptoms without continued dependence on medications.

Disclaimer: tDCS is not approved by the FDA to treat ADHD. While some studies have shown promising results, brain stimulation is not a cure for ADHD and won't cause the symptoms to go away.

What is a tDCS Montage Chart?

The placement of electrodes for tDCS varies depending on what type of condition a patient is trying to manage. A tDCS montage chart shows you where to place the anode and cathode when using the tDCS device for the most effective treatment. You can review these montage guides to find examples of common tDCS montages, but it's recommended that you check for the most current information as studies are revealing new ways to use tDCS technology.

When reading the chart, begin by locating your nasion, inion, and left and right tragus to create a cross-section of your head. The nasion rests just above your nose bridge and the inion is the bump on the back of your skull, just above your spine. Your tragus is the part of your ear that covers the ear canal. If you draw a line from one tragus to the other and draw another line from your nasion to your inion, you'll find the centre position on the chart, known as Cz.

The rest of the positions on the chart are relative to the center, and you can use Cz as your guide to find the correct position for the electrodes based on where they're located in relation to it.

The Bottom Line

Research is still ongoing when it comes to tDCS montages for ADHD. It’s impossible to determine at the moment whether tDCS is an effective treatment option for anyone looking to reduce their need for potentially dangerous medications. Some people have reported that tDCS helps them manage their symptoms when combined with psychotherapy and behavioral therapy, however, and the ongoing analyses show promising signs. If approved in the future by the FDA for use to treat ADHD, tDCS might reduce the need for traditional medications such as Adderall or Ritalin.

We highly recommend that you speak with a doctor before exploring tDCS further. There are more trials being performed at the moment, and we expect new information to become available in the near future. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest studies and tDCS products.

Disclaimer: The information presented above is not meant to suggest that tDCS is a proven medical treatment for ADHD. tDCS is not cleared or approved for treating ADHD by the FDA. Always speak with a doctor before attempting any new treatment method.

References/Sources

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31488739/#:~:text=Background%3A%20Neurostimulation%20techniques%20are%20potential,longer%20with%20fewer%20side%20effects.
  3. https://www.tdcs.com/montage-guide
  4. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncel.2016.00072/full
  5. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0215095
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