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A Pilot Study of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

November 1, 2021 - December 31, 2023

Children with ASD experience a wide range of outcomes, and not all children respond effectively to behavioral interventions. There is accumulating evidence of tDCS (mild brain stimulation) being effective in treating the comorbidities as well as the core symptoms of ASD. tDCS is most effective when used simultaneously with behavior intervention. In this study, we will isolate the effects of tDCS alone and in combination with ABA on the executive functioning skills and the core symptoms of ASD and monitor the results using an objective neurophysiological test (EEG).

What are the goals of the study?

The goal of this study is to see if transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) when used during ABA therapy improves learning in children with ASD. If your child takes part in the research, s/he will receive tDCS while receiving her/his ABA therapy.

What will happen during the visit or online?

Your child will participate in the study for a total of five months. S/he will receive 20 sessions of tDCS as well as 20 sessions sham (fake) tDCS. Each session is 20-mins long. A resting electroencephalogram (EEG) using a portable headset will be obtained about one time per month. Most study procedures will be done remotely but several in-person visits are required.

How will this help families?

Potential benefits of tDCS are improvements in executive function skills, decrease in the core symptoms of ASD, and/or greater learning acquisition during ABA therapy in study participants. However, there may not be any benefit at all – that is why we are conducting this study.

Eligibility Criteria

1. Girls and boys between 5 and 12 years with ASD
2. Enrolled in a NJ or NY ABA-based program (school or in-home) supervised by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
3. Stable medical & behavioral treatments for at least 4 weeks prior to, and during the study
4. Able to tolerate wearing tDCS and EEG with a week-long daily desensitization training

View the study flyer here.

Watch a video about the study here.

Contact Information

J. Helen Yoo, Ph.D., Co-Investigator – jhelen.yoo@opwdd.ny.gov

Research Study Website
ClinicalTrials.gov

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