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May 8th 2012

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS),
A Possible Treatment For ADD/ADHD?

Depression, SYDNEY, Australia - March 7, 2012 “tDCS”

Stimulating the brain with a weak electrical current is a safe and effective treatment for depression and could have other surprise benefits for the body and mind, according to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. In one of the largest and most definitive studies of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), results showed that up to half of patients with depression experienced substantial improvements after receiving the treatment.A non-invasive form of brain stimulation, tDCS passes a weak depolarising electrical current into the front of the brain through electrodes on the scalp. Patients remain awake and alert during the procedure “We are excited about these results,” said lead investigator Colleen Loo, MD, School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. “This is the largest randomised controlled trial of transcranial direct current stimulation ever undertaken and, while the results need to be replicated, they confirm previous reports of significant antidepressant effects.”The study included 64 patients with depression who had not benefited from at least 2 other depression treatments. Patients were randomised to receive tDCS or a sham treatment for 20 minutes every day for up to 6 weeks.

Results after 6 weeks of treatment were better than at 3 weeks, suggesting the treatment is best applied over an extended period. Participants who improved during the trial were offered follow up weekly ‘booster’ treatments, with about 85% showing no relapse after 3 months.“These results demonstrate that multiple tDCS sessions are safe and not associated with any adverse cognitive outcomes over time,” said Dr. Loo. He noted that tDCS is simple and cost effective to deliver, requiring a short visit to a clinic.

The study also turned up additional unexpected physical and mental benefits, including improved attention and information processing. “One participant with a long-standing reading problem said his reading had improved after the trial and others commented that they were able to think more clearly,” said Dr. Loo. “Another participant with chronic neck pain reported that the pain had disappeared during the trial. We think that is because tDCS actually changes the brain’s perception of pain. We believe these cognitive benefits are another positive aspect of the treatment worthy of investigation.” The researchers are now looking at an additional trial to include people with bipolar disorder, with early results from overseas suggesting tDCS is just as effective in this group. SOURCE: University of New South Wales

Comments by Dr. Billy Levin
tDCS is indeed both exciting and interesting, especially the improvement in concentration, thinking and reading, all aspects of ADHD. Research has shown that depressed patients who have not responded to antidepressants will often respond dramatically if Ritalin is added to their treatment. These are surely missed ADHD's developing depression due to ADHD neglect. The most exciting aspect is then obviously, is tDCS not a possibility for ADHD? Most of Bipolar is also ADHD! One of the most frequent complications of missed ADHD is "resistant depression" in the adult and adding a stimulant yields dramatic results.

This simple safe treatment, originally intended for depression could be used for ADHD as well, because both depression and ADHD respond to stimulants. More important if ADHD is a left brain immaturity it makes sense to stimulate the left fronto parietal region of the brain as is recommended. Therefore it is not surprising that depressed patients often suggested an improvement in concentration and reading, because both are left brain functions. I wonder if it could be used while an ADHD student is actually busy studying. A thought?

There would be no medical reason for stopping effective medical treatment to start with, and depending on the results it might be able to reduce or even stop medical treatment eventually. The possibilities are limitless.

Dr. Billy Levin - May 2012

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