Transcranial direct current stimulation facilitates motor learning post-stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is an attractive protocol for stroke motor recovery. The current systematic review and meta-analysis investigated the effects of tDCS on motor learning post-stroke. Specifically, we determined long-term learning effects by examining motor improvements from baseline to at least 5 days after tDCS intervention and motor practise. 17 studies reported long-term retention testing (mean retention interval=43.8 days; SD=56.6 days) and qualified for inclusion in our meta-analysis. Assessing primary outcome measures for groups that received tDCS and motor practise versus sham control groups created 21 valid comparisons: (1) 16 clinical assessments and (2) 5 motor skill acquisition tests. A random effects model meta-analysis showed a significant overall effect size=0.59 (p<0.0001; low heterogeneity, T2=0.04; I2=22.75%; and high classic fail-safe N=240). 4 moderator variable analyses revealed beneficial effects of tDCS on long-term motor learning: (1) stimulation protocols: anodal on the ipsilesional hemisphere, cathodal on the contralesional hemisphere, or bilateral; (2) recovery stage: subacute or chronic stroke; (3) stimulation timing: tDCS before or during motor practise; and (4) task-specific training or conventional rehabilitation protocols. This robust meta-analysis identified novel long-term motor learning effects with tDCS and motor practise post-stroke.

via Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

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