Posts Tagged tDCS

[ARTICLE] Personalized upper limb training combined with anodal-tDCS for sensorimotor recovery in spastic hemiparesis: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial – Full Text



Recovery of voluntary movement is a main rehabilitation goal. Efforts to identify effective upper limb (UL) interventions after stroke have been unsatisfactory. This study includes personalized impairment-based UL reaching training in virtual reality (VR) combined with non-invasive brain stimulation to enhance motor learning. The approach is guided by limiting reaching training to the angular zone in which active control is preserved (“active control zone”) after identification of a “spasticity zone”. Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (a-tDCS) is used to facilitate activation of the affected hemisphere and enhance inter-hemispheric balance. The purpose of the study is to investigate the effectiveness of personalized reaching training, with and without a-tDCS, to increase the range of active elbow control and improve UL function.


This single-blind randomized controlled trial will take place at four academic rehabilitation centers in Canada, India and Israel. The intervention involves 10 days of personalized VR reaching training with both groups receiving the same intensity of treatment. Participants with sub-acute stroke aged 25 to 80 years with elbow spasticity will be randomized to one of three groups: personalized training (reaching within individually determined active control zones) with a-tDCS (group 1) or sham-tDCS (group 2), or non-personalized training (reaching regardless of active control zones) with a-tDCS (group 3). A baseline assessment will be performed at randomization and two follow-up assessments will occur at the end of the intervention and at 1 month post intervention. Main outcomes are elbow-flexor spatial threshold and ratio of spasticity zone to full elbow-extension range. Secondary outcomes include the Modified Ashworth Scale, Fugl-Meyer Assessment, Streamlined Wolf Motor Function Test and UL kinematics during a standardized reach-to-grasp task.


This study will provide evidence on the effectiveness of personalized treatment on spasticity and UL motor ability and feasibility of using low-cost interventions in low-to-middle-income countries.


Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability. Up to 85% of patients with sub-acute stroke present chronic upper limb (UL) sensorimotor deficits [1]. While post-stroke UL recovery has been a major focus of attention, efforts to identify effective rehabilitation interventions have been unsatisfactory. This study focuses on the delivery of personalized impairment-based UL training combined with low-cost state-of-the-art technology (non-invasive brain stimulation and commercially available virtual reality, VR) to enhance motor learning, which is becoming more readily available worldwide.

A major impairment following stroke is spasticity, leading to difficulty in daily activities and reduced quality of life [2]. Studies have identified that spasticity relates to disordered motor control due to deficits in the ability of the central nervous system to regulate motoneuronal thresholds through segmental and descending systems [34]. In the healthy nervous system, the motoneuronal threshold is expressed as the “spatial threshold” (ST) or the specific muscle length/joint angle at which the stretch reflex and other proprioceptive reflexes begin to act [567]. The range of ST regulation in the intact system is defined by the task-specific ability to activate muscles anywhere within the biomechanical joint range of motion (ROM). However, to relax the muscle completely, ST has to be shifted outside of the biomechanical range [8].

After stroke, the ability to regulate STs is impaired [3] such that the upper angular limit of ST regulation occurs within the biomechanical range of the joint resulting in spasticity (spasticity zone). Thus, resistance to stretch of the relaxed muscle has a spatial aspect in that it occurs within the defined spasticity zone. In other joint ranges, spasticity is not present and normal reciprocal muscle activation can occur (active control zone; [4] Fig. 1). This theory-based intervention investigates whether recovery of voluntary movement is linked to recovery of ST control.

Fig. 1Spatial thresholds (STs) in healthy and stroke participants. a The tonic stretch reflex threshold (TSRT) can be regulated throughout a range (filled bar) that exceeds the biomechanical range of the joint (open bar). Relaxation and active force can be produced at any angle within the biomechanical range. b The intersection of the diagonal line with the zero-velocity line defines the TSRT. In healthy subjects, TSRT lies outside of the biomechanical range of the joint (arrow) during the relaxed state. c In patients with stroke, TSRT may lie within the biomechanical range in the relaxed state, defining the joint angle at which spasticity begins to appear (spasticity zone). In the other joint ranges, spasticity is not present (active zone)

We also consider that inter-hemispheric balance is disrupted after stroke, interfering with recovery. UL motor function depends on the modulation of inter-hemispheric inhibition between cortical areas via transcallosal projections [910] and descending projections to fingers, hand and arm [11]. Unilateral hemispheric damage reduces activity in the affected hemisphere while activity in the unaffected hemisphere increases [12], becoming more dominant. UL recovery may relate to rebalancing of inter-hemispheric inhibition [13] using, for example, anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (a-tDCS) over the affected hemisphere [1415]. a-tDCS is considered a safe technique with transient adverse effects, such as slight scalp itching or tingling and/or mild headaches, that are not expected to impede the patient’s ability to participate in the training protocol [16].

The underlying idea of this proposal is that recovery of voluntary movement is tightly linked to the recovery of threshold control. We propose an intervention that combines current knowledge about motor learning and disorders in ST control. The intervention involves personalized UL reach training designed according to the spatial structure of motor deficits of an individual, with excitatory a-tDCS over the sensorimotor areas of the affected hemisphere. […]


Continue —> Personalized upper limb training combined with anodal-tDCS for sensorimotor recovery in spastic hemiparesis: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial | Trials | Full Text


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[Review] Transcranial Electrical Brain Stimulation – Full Text


Transcranial electrical brain stimulation using weak direct current (tDCS) or alternating current (tACS) is being increasingly used in clinical and experimental settings to improve cognitive and motor functions in healthy subjects as well as neurological patients. This review focuses on the therapeutic value of transcranial direct current stimulation for neurorehabilitation and provides an overview of studies addressing motor and non-motor symptoms after stroke, disorders of attention and consciousness as well as Parkinson’s disease.



The past 10 years have seen an increased clinical and experimental focus on noninvasive electrical brain stimulation as an innovative therapeutic approach to support neurorehabilitation. This entails the application of either transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), or less commonly, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). Typically, up to 0.8 A/m² is used for up to 40 min per single stimulation session [1]. The electrical current partially penetrates the underlying structures and affects nerve cells, glia and vessels in the stimulated brain area [1] [2]. Early animal experiments during the 1960s and 1970s on the effects of weak DC stimulation demonstrated an excitement-induced change of neurons lasting several hours after the end of the stimulation [3] [4]. Therapeutic studies of the 1970s, at that time mainly concerning the treatment of depression, did not yield any success, which in retrospect could be attributed to the stimulation parameters used. In 2 000 key experiments by Nitsche and Paulus on polarity-related excitability changes in the human motor system after transcranial application of tDCS led to a renewed interest in the approach [5]. The authors documented increased cortical excitability measured by the amplitude of motor-evoked potentials in healthy volunteers after anodal stimulation above the motor cortex lasting at least 9 min [6]. Reversing the direction of stimulation (cathodal tDCS) resulted in a decrease in motor-evoked potential. In addition to the concept of pure excitability modulation, a large number of studies demonstrate modulation of neuroplasticity by tDCS in various ways, including basic scientific and mechanistic findings regarding improvement of synaptic transmission strength [7] [8] [9], long-term influence on learning processes and behavior [10] [11], as well as a therapeutic approach to improve function in neurological and psychiatric disorders associated with altered or disturbed neuroplasticity (overview in [12]). In particular, simultaneous application of tDCS together with different learning paradigms, such as motor or cognitive training, appears to produce favorable effects in healthy subjects and in various patient groups [11] [13].

The following review presents the effects of tDCS on the improvement in the function of some neurological disease patterns which are regularly the focus of neurorehabilitative treatment. This especially includes stroke. In addition, we shall refer to a current database of clinical studies containing a comprehensive list of scientific and clinical studies of tDCS in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders [14].

Post-stroke Motor Impairment

Stroke is one of the primary causes worldwide of permanent limitations of motor function and speech. Despite intensive rehabilitation efforts, approx. 50% of stroke patients remain limited in their motor and speech capabilities [15] [16] [17]. Current understanding of the mechanisms of tDCS is largely based on data documented for the human motor system. The reasons for this include the presence of direct and easily objectifiable measurement criteria (for example, motor-evoked potential, fine motor function), as well as anatomical accessibility of brain motor regions for non-invasive stimulation. Therefore, it is not surprising that the clinical syndrome of stroke with the frequent symptom of hemiparesis as a “lesion model of the pyramidal tract” received significant scientific interest with respect to researching the effects of tDCS, as evidenced by the numerous scientific publications since 2005 ([Fig. 1]). In contrast to earlier largely mechanistic studies, in the past 5 years there has been a trend toward studies addressing clinically-oriented therapeutic issues. […]

Continue —> Thieme E-Journals – Neurology International Open / Full Text

Fig. 2 Illustration of the 3 typical brain stimulation montages exemplified by tDCS above the motor cortex. In example a, the anode (red) is placed above the ipsilesional motor cortex, and the cathode (blue) is located on the contralateral forehead. Example b shows the cathode placed above the motor cortex of the non-lesioned hemisphere, and the anode is placed on the contralateral forehead. Example c illustrates bihemispheric montage, with the anode located above the ipsilesional motor cortex, and the cathode placed above the motor cortex of the non-lesioned hemisphere. The white arrow shows the intracerebral current flow. The goal of these 3 arrangements is to modulate the interaction between both motor cortices by changing the activity of one or both hemispheres c.

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[Abstract+References] Crossover design in transcranial direct current stimulation studies on motor learning: potential pitfalls and difficulties in interpretation of findings.


Crossover designs are used by a high proportion of studies investigating the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on motor learning. These designs necessitate attention to aspects of data collection and analysis to take account of design-related confounds including order, carryover, and period effects. In this systematic review, we appraised the method sections of crossover-designed tDCS studies of motor learning and discussed the strategies adopted to address these factors. A systematic search of 10 databases was performed and 19 research papers, including 21 experimental studies, were identified. Potential risks of bias were addressed in all of the studies, however, not in a rigorous and structured manner. In the data collection phase, unclear methods of randomization, various lengths of washout period, and inconsistency in the counteracting period effect can be observed. In the analytical procedures, the stratification by sequence group was often ignored, and data were treated as if it belongs to a simple repeated-measures design. An inappropriate use of crossover design can seriously affect the findings and therefore the conclusions drawn from tDCS studies on motor learning. The results indicate a pressing need for the development of detailed guidelines for this type of studies to benefit from the advantages of a crossover design.


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[VIDEO] tDCS – Transcranial direct current stimulation CIDIMU Group – YouTube

Published on Nov 24, 2017


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[Abstract] Combined Brain and Peripheral Nerve Stimulation in Chronic Stroke Patients With Moderate to Severe Motor Impairment

First published: 



To evaluate effects of somatosensory stimulation in the form of repetitive peripheral nerve sensory stimulation (RPSS) in combination with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), tDCS alone, RPSS alone, or sham RPSS + tDCS as add-on interventions to training of wrist extension with functional electrical stimulation (FES), in chronic stroke patients with moderate to severe upper limb impairments in a crossover design. We hypothesized that the combination of RPSS and tDCS would enhance the effects of FES on active range of movement (ROM) of the paretic wrist to a greater extent than RPSS alone, tDCS alone or sham RPSS + tDCS.

Materials and Methods

The primary outcome was the active ROM of extension of the paretic wrist. Secondary outcomes were ROM of wrist flexion, grasp, and pinch strength of the paretic and nonparetic upper limbs, and ROM of wrist extension of the nonparetic wrist. Outcomes were blindly evaluated before and after each intervention. Analysis of variance with repeated measures with factors “session” and “time” was performed.


After screening 2499 subjects, 22 were included. Data from 20 subjects were analyzed. There were significant effects of “time” for grasp force of the paretic limb and for ROM of wrist extension of the nonparetic limb, but no effects of “session” or interaction “session x time.” There were no significant effects of “session,” “time,” or interaction “session x time” regarding other outcomes.


Single sessions of PSS + tDCS, tDCS alone, or RPSS alone did not improve training effects in chronic stroke patients with moderate to severe impairment.

Source: Combined Brain and Peripheral Nerve Stimulation in Chronic Stroke Patients With Moderate to Severe Motor Impairment – Menezes – 2017 – Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface – Wiley Online Library

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[ARTICLE] Plasticity induced by non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation: A position paper – Full Text


Several techniques and protocols of non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation (NIBS), including transcranial magnetic and electrical stimuli, have been developed in the past decades. Non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation may modulate cortical excitability outlasting the period of non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation itself from several minutes to more than one hour. Quite a few lines of evidence, including pharmacological, physiological and behavioral studies in humans and animals, suggest that the effects of non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation are produced through effects on synaptic plasticity. However, there is still a need for more direct and conclusive evidence. The fragility and variability of the effects are the major challenges that non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation currently faces. A variety of factors, including biological variation, measurement reproducibility and the neuronal state of the stimulated area, which can be affected by factors such as past and present physical activity, may influence the response to non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation. Work is ongoing to test whether the reliability and consistency of non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation can be improved by controlling or monitoring neuronal state and by optimizing the protocol and timing of stimulation.

1. Introduction

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) are the most commonly used methods of non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation that has been abbreviated by previous authors as either as NIBS or NTBS. Here we use NIBS since it seems to be the most common term at the present time. When it was first introduced in 1985, TMS was employed primarily as a tool to investigate the integrity and function of the human corticospinal system (Barker et al., 1985). Single pulse stimulation was used to elicit motor evoked potentials (MEPs) that were easily evoked and measured in contralateral muscles (Rothwell et al., 1999). The robustness and repeatability of measures of conduction time, stimulation threshold and “hot spot” location allowed TMS to be developed into a standard tool in clinical neurophysiology.

As we review below, a number of NIBS protocols can lead to effects on brain excitability that outlast the period of stimulation. These may reflect basic synaptic mechanisms involving long-term potentiation (LTP)- or long-term depression (LTD)-like plasticity, and because of this there has been great interest in using the methods as therapeutic interventions in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Furthermore, recently they are more frequently applied to modify memory processes and to enhance cognitive function in healthy individuals. However, apart from success in treating some patients with depression (Lefaucheur et al., 2014; Padberg et al., 2002, 1999), there is little consensus that they have improved outcomes in a clinically meaningful fashion in any other conditions. The reason for this is probably linked to the reason why many other protocols failed to reach routine clinical neurophysiology: they are too variable both within and between individuals to make them practically useful in a health service setting (Goldsworthy et al., 2014; Hamada et al., 2013; Lopez-Alonso et al., 2014, 2015).

Below we review the evidence for the mechanisms underlying the “neuroplastic” effects of NIBS, and then consider the problems in reproducibility and offer some potential ways forward in research. […]

Continue —> Plasticity induced by non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation: A position paper – ScienceDirect

There are three major lines of evidence supporting NIBS produces effects…

Fig. 1. There are three major lines of evidence supporting NIBS produces effects through mechanisms of synaptic plasticity: (1) Drugs that modulate the function of critical receptors/channels for plasticity, e.g. Ca2+ channels and NMDA receptors, alter the effect of NIBS; (2) NIBS mainly changes I-waves rather than the D-wave in the epidural recording of descending volleys evoked by TMS, suggesting the effect of NIBS occurs trans-synaptically; and (3) NIBS interacts between protocols and with motor practice and cognitive learning processes, suggesting the effect of NIBS is involves in plasticity-related motor and psychological processes.

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[BLOG POST] Study: Transcranial e-stim beneficial in mild traumatic brain injury

Researchers from the University of California San Diego and from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System have improved neural function in a group of people with mild traumatic brain injury using low-impulse electrical stimulation to the brain, according to a study published in Brain Injury.

Although little is understood about the pathology of mild TBI, the team of researchers noted that previous work has shown that passive neuro-feedback, low-intensity pulses applied to the brain through transcranial electrical stimulation, has promise as a potential treatment.

The team’s pilot study enrolled six people with mild TBI who were experiencing post-concussion symptoms. Researchers used a form of LIP-tES combined with concurrent electroencephalography monitoring and assessed the treatment’s effect using a non-invasive functional imaging technique, magnetoencephalography, before and after treatment.

“Our previous publications have shown that MEG detection of abnormal brain slow-waves is one of the most sensitive biomarkers for mild traumatic brain injury (concussions), with about 85 percent sensitivity in detecting concussions and, essentially, no false-positives in normal patients,” senior author Dr. Roland Lee said in prepared remarks. “This makes it an ideal technique to monitor the effects of concussion treatments such as LIP-tES.”

Researchers reported that the brains in all six patients had abnormal slow-waves at the time of initial scans. After treatment, MEG scans showed reduced abnormal slow-waves and the study participants reported a significant reduction in post-concussion scores.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to document with neuroimaging the effects of LIP-tES treatment on brain functioning in mild TBI,” first author Ming-Xiong Huang added. “It’s a small study, which certainly must be expanded, but it suggests new potential for effectively speeding the healing process in mild traumatic brain injuries.”

Source: Study: Transcranial e-stim beneficial in mild traumatic brain injury – MassDevice

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[Case Study] Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) combined with blindsight rehabilitation for the treatment of homonymous hemianopia: a report of two-cases – Full Text PDF


[Purpose] Homonymous hemianopia is one of the most common symptoms following neurologic damage leading to impairments of functional abilities and activities of daily living. There are two main types of restorative
rehabilitation in hemianopia: “border training” which involves exercising vision at the edge of the damaged visual field, and “blindsight training,” which is based on exercising the unconscious perceptual functions deep
inside the blind hemifield. Only border effects have been shown to be facilitated by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This pilot study represents the first attempt to associate the modulatory effects of tDCS over
the parieto-occipital cortex to blindsight treatment in the rehabilitation of the homonymous hemianopia.

[Subjects and Methods] Patients TA and MR both had chronic hemianopia. TA underwent blindsight treatment which was combined with tDCS followed by blindsight training alone. MR underwent the two training rounds in reverse order.

[Results] The patients showed better scores in clinical-instrumental, functional, and ecological assessments after tDCS combined with blindsight rehabilitation rather than rehabilitation alone. [Conclusion] In this two-case report parietal-occipital tDCS modulate the effects induced by blindsight treatment on hemianopia.

[Conclusion] In this two-case report parietal-occipital tDCS modulate the effects induced by blindsight treatment on hemianopia.

Full text  PDF

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[ARTICLE] Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for improving capacity in activities and arm function after stroke: a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials – Full Text



Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is an emerging approach for improving capacity in activities of daily living (ADL) and upper limb function after stroke. However, it remains unclear what type of tDCS stimulation is most effective. Our aim was to give an overview of the evidence network regarding the efficacy and safety of tDCS and to estimate the effectiveness of the different stimulation types.


We performed a systematic review of randomised trials using network meta-analysis (NMA), searching the following databases until 5 July 2016: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED, Web of Science, and four other databases. We included studies with adult people with stroke. We compared any kind of active tDCS (anodal, cathodal, or dual, that is applying anodal and cathodal tDCS concurrently) regarding improvement of our primary outcome of ADL capacity, versus control, after stroke. PROSPERO ID: CRD42016042055.


We included 26 studies with 754 participants. Our NMA showed evidence of an effect of cathodal tDCS in improving our primary outcome, that of ADL capacity (standardized mean difference, SMD = 0.42; 95% CI 0.14 to 0.70). tDCS did not improve our secondary outcome, that of arm function, measured by the Fugl-Meyer upper extremity assessment (FM-UE). There was no difference in safety between tDCS and its control interventions, measured by the number of dropouts and adverse events.


Comparing different forms of tDCS shows that cathodal tDCS is the most promising treatment option to improve ADL capacity in people with stroke.


An emerging approach for enhancing neural plasticity and hence rehabilitation outcomes after stroke is non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS). Several stimulation procedures are available, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) [1], transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) [234], transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) [5], and transcranial pulsed ultrasound (TPU) [6]. In recent years a considerable evidence base for NIBS has emerged, especially for rTMS and tDCS.

tDCS is relatively inexpensive, easy to administer and portable, hence constituting an ideal adjuvant therapy during stroke rehabilitation. It works by applying a weak and constant direct current to the brain and has the ability to either enhance or suppress cortical excitability, with effect lasting up to several hours after the stimulation [789]. Hypothetically, this technique makes tDCS a potentially useful tool to modulate neuronal inhibitory and excitatory networks of the affected and the non-affected hemisphere post stroke to enhance, for example, upper limb motor recovery [1011]. Three different stimulation types can be distinguished.

  • In anodal stimulation, the anodal electrode (+) usually is placed over the lesioned brain area and the reference electrode over the contralateral orbit [12]. This leads to subthreshold depolarization, hence promoting neural excitation [3].

  • In cathodal stimulation, the cathode (−) usually is placed over the non-lesioned brain area and the reference electrode over the contralateral orbit [12], leading to subthreshold polarization and hence inhibiting neural activity [3].

  • Dual tDCS means the simultaneous application of anodal and cathodal stimulation [13].

However, the literature does not provide clear guidelines, not only regarding the tDCS type, but also regarding the electrode configuration [14], the amount of current applied and the duration of tDCS, or the question if tDCS should be applied as a standalone therapy or in combination with other treatments, like robot-assisted therapy [15].


There is so far conflicting evidence from systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials on the effectiveness of different tDCS approaches after stroke. For example, over the past two decades more than 30 randomised clinical trials have investigated the effects of different tDCS stimulation techniques for stroke, and there are 55 ongoing trials [16]. However, the resulting network of evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating different types of tDCS (i.e., anodal, cathodal or dual) as well as their comparators like sham tDCS, physical rehabilitation or pharmacological agents has not yet been analyzed in a systematic review so far.

A network meta-analysis (NMA), also known as multiple treatment comparison meta-analysis or mixed treatment comparison analysis, allows for a quantitative synthesis of the evidence network. This is made possible by combining direct evidence from head-to-head comparisons of three or more interventions within randomised trials with indirect evidence across randomised trials on the basis of a common comparator [17181920]. Network meta-analysis has many advantages over traditional pairwise meta-analysis, such as visualizing and facilitating the interpretation of the wider picture of the evidence and improving understanding of the relative merits of these different types of neuromodulation when compared to sham tDCS and/or another comparator such as exercise therapy and/or pharmacological agents [2122]. By borrowing strength from indirect evidence to gain certainty about all treatment comparisons, network meta-analysis allows comparative effects that have not been investigated directly in randomised clinical trials to be estimated and ranked [2223].


The aim of our systematic review with NMA was to give an overview of the evidence network of randomised controlled trials of tDCS (anodal, cathodal, or dual) for improving capacity in activities of daily living (ADL) and upper limb function after stroke, as well as its safety, and to estimate and rank the relative effectiveness of the different stimulation types, while taking into account potentially important treatment effect modifiers.

Continue —>  Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for improving capacity in activities and arm function after stroke: a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text


Fig. 1 Study flow diagram

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