Utility of the electroencephalogram in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

J. Gordon Millichap*, John J. Millichap, Cynthia V. Stack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


An electroencephalogram (EEG) has not been routinely utilized in the evaluation of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The utility of the EEG in ADHD is unclear. A recent study in our laboratory using sleep and sleep deprivation routinely found one in four non-epileptic children evaluated for attention deficit disorder has epileptiform discharges in the EEG, more than half focal. The majority of abnormalities (97.5%) occur in sleep and sleep-deprived records compared to 7% in prior wake only records. A review of eight publications showed that laboratories using awake only as routine EEG recordings report a relatively low prevalence of epileptiform discharges, whereas the higher prevalence of epileptiform discharges is seen in those with more prolonged sleep recordings. We have determined that sleep deprivation and sleep are essential to rule out an abnormal EEG in attention deficit disorder. In patients with attention deficit disorder complicated by epilepsy, stimulant therapy is generally safe, provided seizures are controlled by antiepileptic medication. Patients with epilepsy or subclinical electrographic abnormalities not treated with anticonvulsants are at increased risk of seizures when stimulant therapy is introduced, especially extended-release methylphenidate. Apart from an increase in risk of seizures and need for caution in use of stimulants, studies show that epileptiform discharges in the electroencephalogram are linked to a better response of attention deficit to methylphenidate and a higher cognitive performance. Transient cognitive impairment related to subclinical electrographic abnormalities responds to antiepileptic medication. An EEG is important in selected cases of attention deficit disorder and is useful in choice of medication, especially in children with lack of awareness and transient cognitive impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-184
Number of pages5
JournalClinical EEG and Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Utility of the electroencephalogram in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this