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Stroke. 2009 May;40(5):1764-71. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.108.540500. Epub 2009 Mar 12.

Effects of combined peripheral nerve stimulation and brain polarization on performance of a motor sequence task after chronic stroke.

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  • 1Human Cortical Physiology and Stroke Neurorehabilitation Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA. pcelnik@jhmi.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:

Recent work demonstrated that application of peripheral nerve and cortical stimulation independently can induce modest improvements in motor performance in patients with stroke. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that combining peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) to the paretic hand with anodal direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the ipsilesional primary motor cortex (M1) would facilitate beneficial effects of motor training more than each intervention alone or sham (tDCS(Sham) and PNS(Sham)).

METHODS:

Nine chronic stroke patients completed a blinded crossover designed study. In separate sessions, we investigated the effects of single applications of PNS+tDCS, PNS+tDCS(Sham), tDCS+PNS(Sham), and PNS(Sham)+tDCS(Sham) before motor training on the ability to perform finger motor sequences with the paretic hand.

RESULTS:

PNS+tDCS resulted in a 41.3% improvement in the number of correct key presses relative to PNS(Sham)+tDCS(Sham), 15.4% relative to PNS+tDCS(Sham), and 22.7% relative to tDCS+PNS(Sham). These performance differences were maintained 1 and 6 days after the end of the training.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results indicate that combining PNS with tDCS can facilitate the beneficial effects of training on motor performance beyond levels reached with each intervention alone, a finding of relevance for the neurorehabilitation of motor impairments after stroke.

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