The recent double-blind sham control study by McGough and colleagues9 looked at cortical activation mechanisms using a quantitative electroencephalogram. The researchers found increased spectral power in the right frontal and frontal midline bands with active TNS, hypothesizing that activation of the frontobasal ganglia network targets hyperactivity and impulsivity. This mechanism of action helps to support the overall findings for improvement in both the inattention and hyperactivity components of ADHD.
During trials, the pattern of improvement on ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS) as well as on the Connor’s rating scale was comparable to that seen with non-stimulant medication.10 In this double-blind sham-controlled study by McGough and colleagues, symptomatic improvement was found to be highest after the first week of treatment; scores continued to improve over the next 3 weeks. While the sham group showed improvement over the first week, it was followed by a flattening response. One week after treatment discontinuation, rating scales were again administered in both the active and the sham groups. In both groups, scores from the ADHD-RS were found to decrease, indicating a recurrence of symptoms. This 4-week trial showed sustained improvement in both hyperactivity and inattention symptoms of ADHD with nightly active treatment.
Unfortunately, there are no long-term studies of mood or ADHD with TNS. Continued trials need to be undertaken to determine long-term outcomes as well as clear parameters for treatment.
The cost of the device used in the study, Monarch-TNS, is just over $1000; it is not currently covered by insurance. Other available TNS devices range between $250 and $450; their efficacy, however, is unknown. It is difficult to compare the cost of TNS versus stimulant and non-stimulant medications, since there is such a wide range in cost. The monthly cost ranges from approximately $8 for a generic stimulant and may exceed $288 for a branded product. Most insurance companies will cover at least some medication costs.
Dr Griffin is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, the Medical Director of Outpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Director of the Child and Adolescent ADHD Clinic at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL. Dr Harari is a first-year Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow at Rush University Medical Center. The authors report no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.
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