Different Spectral Analysis Methods for the Theta/Beta Ratio Calculate Different Ratios But Do Not Distinguish ADHD from Controls

Hanneke van Dijk, Roger deBeus, Cynthia Kerson, Michelle E Roley-Roberts, Vincent J Monastra, L Eugene Arnold, Xueliang Pan, Martijn Arns*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There has been ongoing research on the ratio of theta to beta power (Theta/Beta Ratio, TBR) as an EEG-based test in the diagnosis of ADHD. Earlier studies reported significant TBR differences between patients with ADHD and controls. However, a recent meta-analysis revealed a marked decline of effect size for the difference in TBR between ADHD and controls for studies published in the past decade. Here, we test if differences in EEG processing explain the heterogeneity of findings. We analyzed EEG data from two multi-center clinical studies. Five different EEG signal processing algorithms were applied to calculate the TBR. Differences between resulting TBRs were subsequently assessed for clinical usability in the iSPOT-A dataset. Although there were significant differences in the resulting TBRs, none distinguished between children with and without ADHD, and no consistent associations with ADHD symptoms arose. Different methods for EEG signal processing result in significantly different TBRs. However, none of the methods significantly distinguished between ADHD and healthy controls in our sample. The secular effect size decline for the TBR is most likely explained by factors other than differences in EEG signal processing, e.g. fewer hours of sleep in participants and differences in inclusion criteria for healthy controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-173
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ADHD
  • EEG
  • ICAN
  • Spectral analysis methods
  • TIME
  • Theta-Beta-Ratio
  • iSPOT-A

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