Research & Development

Home-based brain stimulation study on stroke survivors finds mixed results

26 stroke survivors were given four weeks of remotely supervised transcranial direct current stimulation (RS-tDCS) in an at-home cognitive rehabilitation pilot study, which revealed this method to be feasible, but not wholly effective.
The Korean version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (K-MoCA) was used to characterise the results, finding that the therapy improved general cognitive function but not significantly more so than computerised cognitive therapy alone. This was reported by Yun Hee Kim, MD, PhD, along with colleagues at Samsung medical centre etc.
The researchers also noted that only stroke survivors with moderate cognitive impairment, and those with left hemispheric lesions, showed an improvement on the K-MoCA, compared with controls.
Randomisation was used to allocate either RS-tDCS or a sham computerised cognitive therapy to patients. Both involved the survivors wearing an electrode-embedded soft cap on their heads. They could not control the settings themselves – aremote supervisor-controlled session duration and intensity.
However, in both protocols, patients and caregivers had training for correct tDCS selfapplication to see if it would be possible for this treatment to be used within the home without supervision.
A major flaw in the study was the lack of a control group who didn’t undergo any type of cognitive therapy. There was also a small sample size, making it hard to extrapolate the results.
Kim stated: “Despite the preliminary nature of this study on the efficacy of home-based tDCS, the present study provides new hope for patients with stroke and their families, for accessible and continuous rehabilitation of cognitive symptoms.”
In studies relating to Alzheimer’s disease, major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia, RS-tDCS has been shown to be effective in lessening symptoms. A recent trial also showed home-based tDCS improved attention in people with attention deficithyperactive disorder (ADHD) who weren’t taking stimulant medications.