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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to Primary Motor Area Improves Hand Dexterity and Selective Attention in Chronic Stroke

Au-Yeung, Stephanie S.Y. PhD; Wang, Juliana MSc; Chen, Ye MSc; Chua, Eldrich MSc

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: December 2014 - Volume 93 - Issue 12 - p 1057–1064
doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000127
Original Research Articles

Objective The aim of this study was to determine whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied to the primary motor hand area modulates hand dexterity and selective attention after stroke.

Design This study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover trial involving subjects with chronic stroke. Ten stroke survivors with some pinch strength in the paretic hand received three different tDCS interventions assigned in random order in separate sessions—anodal tDCS targeting the primary motor area of the lesioned hemisphere (M1lesioned), cathodal tDCS applied to the contralateral hemisphere (M1nonlesioned), and sham tDCS—each for 20 mins. The primary outcome measures were Purdue pegboard test scores for hand dexterity and response time in the color-word Stroop test for selective attention. Pinch strength of the paretic hand was the secondary outcome.

Results Cathodal tDCS to M1nonlesioned significantly improved affected hand dexterity (by 1.1 points on the Purdue pegboard unimanual test, P = 0.014) and selective attention (0.6 secs faster response time on the level 3 Stroop interference test for response inhibition, P = 0.017), but not pinch strength. The outcomes were not improved with anodal tDCS to M1lesioned or sham tDCS.

Conclusions Twenty minutes of cathodal tDCS to M1nonlesioned can promote both paretic hand dexterity and selective attention in people with chronic stroke.

From the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China.

All correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: Stephanie S.Y. Au-Yeung, PhD, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Financial disclosure statements have been obtained, and no conflicts of interest have been reported by the authors or by any individuals in control of the content of this article.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins