Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a method of stimulating the brain with a low-intensity electrical current. The current can increase or decrease the activity of nerve cells in the brain, allowing researchers to target areas of the brain damaged by stroke. This technology boasts many benefits, as it is portable, non-invasive, does not hurt, and inexpensive. Initially, researchers studied tDCS as a method for improving movement deficits. Using tDCS to improve aphasia has been a topic of interest in the medical community since 2008. Aphasia is a loss of the ability to understand or express speech. Aphasia involves a theoretically complicated neural network to repair following a stroke, presenting a significant challenge to researchers.
tDCS: the evidence so far
Researchers from the USA and Australia have reviewed the literature on this topic so far. In total, they perused 37 original research articles and 27 reviews concerning tDCS for aphasia. After aggregating the findings, the authors concluded that the combination of movement and language rehabilitation works well. For example, it is now known that modulating the activity of brain areas that are known to prepare and coordinate movements can result in improvements in aphasia. Researchers also observed benefits when they combined tDCS with speech-language therapy. However, it is not known how this exactly works. Some researchers speculate that tDCS has mechanisms similar to certain medications, but without the side effects. The authors also mention that certain settings for this therapy, such as the location of stimulation and montage, is probably different for languages that are structurally different from each other.
In summary, the authors think that tDCS is a very promising treatment for aphasia. However, it is essential to investigate the working mechanisms further to optimize the therapy. If you experienced a stroke with subsequent difficulty speaking, you should consider seeking out local tDCS research at a nearby university or research center. Contact Strokemark to find reputable studies for tDCS in your area.
The lead author of the original article was Susan Wortman-Jutt, Neuromodulation and Human Motor Control Laboratory, Burke Medical Research Institute and Rehabilitation Hospital, White Plains, New York, USA.