Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation May Aid Cognition in High-Functioning Autism

Transcranial Electrical Stimulation
Transcranial Electrical Stimulation
Anodal tDCS over the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortices improved functional connectivity.

BALTIMORE — Treatment with transcranial direct current stimulation may improve functional connectivity in the anterior-posterior default mode network of individuals with high-functioning autism, according to researchers.

Joseph Jason van Steenburgh, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist in the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues, performed anodal, cathodal and sham tDCS in eight patients with high-functioning autism while the participants solved working memory problems to determine it’s effect on functional connectivity.

They then measured anticorrelation between the default-mode network and task-positive network nodes before and after tDCS to determine functional determine the effect of tDCS on functional connectivity.

Compared with sham, anodal tDCS over the left dorsolateral prefontal cortices increased anticorrelation (T=-4.25, P=0.003), and anodal tDCS to either the left (T=3.3, P=0.019) or right (T=6.85, P<0.001) dorsolateral prefontal cortices increased functional connectivity to the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingular, the researchers found. The findings were first reported at the American Neurological Association 2014 Annual Meeting.

“Improved functional connectivity in high functioning autism may be a first step towards improved cognition and reduced psychiatric symptoms,” the researchers concluded.


  1. van Steenburgh JJ et al. #S118. “Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Enhances Functional Connectivity in High-Functioning Individuals with Autism.” Presented at: American Neurological Association 2014 Annual Meeting. October 12-14, 2014; Baltimore.