Stroke is a leading cause of disability in the United States. Available treatments for stroke have only a modest effect on motor rehabilitation and about 50-60% of stroke patients remain with some degree of motor impairment after standard treatment.
Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques have been proposed as adjuvant treatments to physical therapy for motor recovery after stroke. High frequency rTMS and anodal tDCS can be delivered over the affected motor cortex in order to increase cortical excitability and induce brain plasticity with the intention to enhance motor learning and achieve functional goals in stroke patients. Similarly, low frequency rTMS and cathodal tDCS can be delivered to the unaffected motor cortex to reduce interhemispheric inhibition and hinder maladaptive plasticity.
The use of several drugs such as amphetamines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), levodopa and cholinergic agents have been also proposed to enhance the motor function. Given that both NIBS and pharmacotherapy might provide some treatment effect independently for motor rehabilitation in stroke and with the rationale that they could work in a synergistic fashion, we believe that a combined therapy- NIBS plus pharmacotherapy- can lead to better outcomes than one or the other alone. In this paper we review the literature that support the potential use of a combined approach in stroke recovery and present the studies that have already investigated this idea