Objective: Functional MRI neurofeedback (fMRI-NF) could potentially be a novel, safe nonpharmacological treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial of fMRI-NF of the right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC), compared to an active control condition, showed promising improvement of ADHD symptoms (albeit in both groups) and in brain function. However, comparison with a placebo condition in a larger trial is required to test efficacy.

Methods: This double-blind, sham-controlled randomized controlled trial tested the effectiveness and efficacy of fMRI-NF of the rIFC on symptoms and executive functions in 88 boys with ADHD (44 each in the active and sham arms). To investigate treatment-related changes, groups were compared at the posttreatment and 6-month follow-up assessments, controlling for baseline scores, age, and medication status. The primary outcome measure was posttreatment score on the ADHD Rating Scale (ADHD-RS).

Results: No significant group differences were found on the ADHD-RS. Both groups showed similar decreases in other clinical and cognitive measures, except for a significantly greater decrease in irritability and improvement in motor inhibition in sham relative to active fMRI-NF at the posttreatment assessment, covarying for baseline. There were no significant side effects or adverse events. The active relative to the sham fMRI-NF group showed enhanced activation in rIFC and other frontal and temporo-occipital-cerebellar self-regulation areas. However, there was no progressive rIFC upregulation, correlation with ADHD-RS scores, or transfer of learning.

Conclusions: Contrary to the hypothesis, the study findings do not suggest that fMRI-NF of the rIFC is effective in improving clinical symptoms or cognition in boys with ADHD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-958.
JournalThe American Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • neurofeedback
  • neuroimaging
  • ADHD
  • fMRI


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