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Effects of Repeated Anodal tDCS Coupled With Cognitive Training for Patients With Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Leśniak, Marcin PhD; Polanowska, Katarzyna PhD; Seniów, Joanna PhD; Członkowska, Anna MD, PhD

Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: May/June 2014 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p E20–E29
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0b013e318292a4c2
Original Articles

Objective: To determine whether cumulative anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (A-tDCS) of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) could enhance rehabilitation of memory and attention in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Setting: Inpatient and outpatient neurorehabilitation unit.

Participants: Twenty-three adult patients, 4- to 92- months post severe TBI.

Design: Participants were randomly allocated to 2 groups. The experimental group received A-tDCS (10 minutes; 1 mA; in the DLPFC), followed by rehabilitative cognitive training, daily for 15 days. Controls received A-tDCS for 25 seconds (sham condition) with the same rehabilitation.

Main Measures: Battery of memory and attention tests, which included visual and auditory modalities. Participants were tested twice before beginning rehabilitation (to control for spontaneous recovery), after rehabilitation completion, and 4 months later.

Results: Tests scores in both groups were similar at 3 weeks before and immediately before treatment. After treatment, the experimental group exhibited larger effect sizes in 6 of 8 cognitive outcome measures, but they were not significantly different from controls. At follow-up, differences remained insignificant.

Conclusion: In contrast to previous studies, our study did not provide sufficient evidence to support the efficacy of repeated A-tDCS for enhancing rehabilitation of memory and attention in patients after severe TBI.

2nd Department of Neurology, Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology (Drs Leśniak, Polanowska, Seniów, and Członkowska); and Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology, Medical University (Dr Członkowska), Warsaw, Poland.

Corresponding Author: Marcin Lesniak, PhD, 2nd Department of Neurology, Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, 9, Sobieskiego St, 02-957 Warsaw, Poland (

The study was supported by Polish National Science Centre grant no. 1611/B/P01/2009/37.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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