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J Clin Psychiatry. 2014 May;75(5):535-42. doi: 10.4088/JCP.13m08590.

Neurocognitive effects of neurofeedback in adolescents with ADHD: a randomized controlled trial.

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Tilburg University, Scientific Center for Care & Welfare (Tranzo), PO Box 90153 (T618), 5000 LE, Tilburg, the Netherlands



Neurofeedback aims to reduce symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mainly attention problems. However, the additional influence of neurofeedback over treatment as usual (TAU) on neurocognitive functioning for adolescents with ADHD remains unclear.


By using a multicenter parallel randomized controlled trial (RCT) design, male adolescents with a DSM-IV-TR diagnosis of ADHD (mean age = 16.1 years; range, 12-24) were randomized to receive either a combination of TAU and neurofeedback (n = 45) or TAU (n = 26). Randomization was computer generated and stratified by age group (ages 12 through 15, 16 through 20, and 21 through 24 years). The neurofeedback intervention consisted of approximately 37 sessions over a period of 25 weeks of theta/sensorimotor rhythm training on the vertex (Cz). Primary neurocognitive outcomes included performance parameters derived from the D2 Test of Attention, the Digit Span backward, the Stroop Color-Word Test and the Tower of London, all assessed preintervention and postintervention. Data were collected between December 2009 and July 2012.


At postintervention, outcomes of attention and/or motor speed were improved, with faster processing times for both intervention conditions and with medium to large effect sizes (range, ηp2 = .08-.54; P values < .023). In both groups, no improvements for higher executive functions were observed. Results might partly resemble practice effects.


Although neurocognitive outcomes improved in all adolescents receiving treatment for ADHD, no additional value for neurofeedback over TAU was observed. Hence, this study does not provide evidence for using theta/sensorimotor rhythm neurofeedback to enhance neurocognitive performance as additional intervention to TAU for adolescents with ADHD symptoms.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: identifier: 1759.

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