Treatment that uses transcranial direct current stimulation may offer a way to optimize the effects of motor skills learning after stroke, especially for patients who are affected by limb paralysis as a result of the stroke. The treatment was the focus of a study team led by Stéphanie Lefebvre, Institute of Neruoscience in Brussels, Belgium.
“Dual transcranial direct current stimulation applied during motor skill learning with a paretic upper limb resulted in prolonged shaping of brain activation,” Stéphanie Lefebvre states in the study’s findings. Details about the study were published December 9 in the journal Brain.
An article published in Neurology Times reports that the study included 19 patients who had chronic hemiparetic stroke. The study consisted of two sessions. The first session was focused on intervention in which dual transcranial direct current stimulation or sham was applied during motor skills learning with the paretic upper limb. The second session, conducted as a follow-up 1 week later, focused on imaging. In that session, the patients performed the learned motor skill. The motor skill learning task, called the “circuit game,” required study subjects to move a pointer controlled by a computer mouse along a complex circuit as quickly and accurately as they could.
According to the Neurology Times article, the patients who had been affected by stroke learned the motor task with the paretic hand in the supine position to match their position in the MRI scanner 1 week later. The following week, they performed the learned motor task in the MRI scanner, and their brain activity was recorded with fMRI.
The study’s abstract notes that relative to the sham series, dual transcranial direct current stimulation applied bilaterally over the primary motor cortex during motor skill learning with the paretic upper limb demonstrated several key results. Chief among those results was enhanced online motor skills learning. Other significant benefits the researchers noted was an enhanced 1-week retention, and superior transfer of performance improvement to an untrained task.
In conclusion, the authors determined that dual transcranial direct current stimulation applied during motor skill learning with a paretic upper limb resulted in a prolonged shaping of brain activation. Furthermore, the researchers conclude, this result supports behavioral enhancements among stroke patients.
[Source: Neurology Times, Brain]