Posts Tagged tDCS

[Abstract] Evaluating the effects of tDCS in stroke patients using functional outcomes: a systematic review

Background and purpose: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been extensively studied over the past 20 years to promote functional motor recovery after stroke. However, tDCS clinical relevance still needs to be determined. The present systematic review aims to determine whether tDCS applied to the primary motor cortex (M1) in stroke patients can have a positive effect on functional motor outcomes.

Materials and methods: Two databases (Medline & Scopus) were searched for randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled trials pertaining to the use of M1 tDCS on cerebral stroke patients, and its effects on validated functional motor outcomes. When data were provided, effect sizes were calculated. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42018108157

Results: 46 studies (n = 1291 patients) met inclusion criteria. Overall study quality was good (7.69/10 on the PEDro scale). Over half (56.5%) the studies were on chronic stroke patients. There seemed to be a certain pattern of recurring parameters, but tDCS protocols still remain heterogeneous. Overall results were positive (71.7% of studies found that tDCS has positive results on functional motor outcomes). Effect-sizes ranged from 0 to 1.33. No severe adverse events were reported.

Conclusion: Despite heterogeneous stimulation parameters, outcomes and patient demographics, tDCS seems to be complementary to classical and novel rehabilitation approaches. With minimal adverse effects (if screening parameters are respected), none of which were serious, and a high potential to improve recovery when using optimal parameters (i.e.: 20 min of stimulation, at 2 mA with 25 or 35cm2 electrodes that are regularly humidified), tDCS could potentially be ready for clinical applications.

  • Implications for Rehabilitation
  • tDCS could potentially be ready for clinical application.

  • Evidence of very low to very high quality is available on the effectiveness of tDCS to improve motor control following stroke.

  • This should with caution be focused on the primary motor cortex.

via Evaluating the effects of tDCS in stroke patients using functional outcomes: a systematic review: Disability and Rehabilitation: Vol 0, No 0

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[ARTICLE] Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to Facilitate Lower Limb Recovery Following Stroke: Current Evidence and Future Directions – Full Text HTML


Stroke remains a global leading cause of disability. Novel treatment approaches are required to alleviate impairment and promote greater functional recovery. One potential candidate is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which is thought to non-invasively promote neuroplasticity within the human cortex by transiently altering the resting membrane potential of cortical neurons. To date, much work involving tDCS has focused on upper limb recovery following stroke. However, lower limb rehabilitation is important for regaining mobility, balance, and independence and could equally benefit from tDCS. The purpose of this review is to discuss tDCS as a technique to modulate brain activity and promote recovery of lower limb function following stroke. Preliminary evidence from both healthy adults and stroke survivors indicates that tDCS is a promising intervention to support recovery of lower limb function. Studies provide some indication of both behavioral and physiological changes in brain activity following tDCS. However, much work still remains to be performed to demonstrate the clinical potential of this neuromodulatory intervention. Future studies should consider treatment targets based on individual lesion characteristics, stage of recovery (acute vs. chronic), and residual white matter integrity while accounting for known determinants and biomarkers of tDCS response.

1. Introduction

Stroke is the second leading cause of death and third leading cause of adult disability globally [1]. With advancement in acute medical care, more people now survive stroke, but frequently require extensive rehabilitative therapy to reduce impairment and improve quality of life. For those that survive stroke, the damaging effects not only impact the individual and their family, but there is also increased burden on health unit resources and community services as the person leaves hospital, potentially requiring assistance to live in the community. Novel treatments that can enable restoration and enhance potential for stroke recovery are desperately needed and will have significant value for many aspects of stroke care.
True recovery from stroke impairment is underpinned by neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to change in structure or function in order to help restore behavior following neural damage. Mechanisms of neuroplasticity are available throughout life but appear enhanced during critical periods of learning [2]. Across several animal studies, it has been shown that there is a period of heightened neuroplasticity that appears to open within several days following stroke [2,3,4] and correlates with rapid recovery [5]. In humans, the timing and duration of a similar critical period of heightened neuroplasticity are not clear, but it likely emerges early after stroke. Understanding the characteristics of a potential critical period of heightened neuroplasticity in humans is important for optimizing stroke rehabilitation and is the subject of current trials [6]. However, the importance of neuroplasticity for stroke recovery in humans is unequivocal, with imaging and physiological studies providing extensive evidence of brain changes correlating with improved behavior [7,8,9,10,11,12,13].
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising, non-invasive, method to induce neuroplasticity within the cerebral cortex and augment stroke recovery. Importantly, tDCS has potential to bidirectionally and selectively alter corticospinal excitability for up to one hour after stimulation [14,15]. Animal models indicate that tDCS modulates resting membrane potential, with anodal stimulation leading to neuronal depolarization and cathodal stimulation leading to neuronal hyperpolarization over large cortical populations [16]. Stimulation-induced changes may be potentiated by changes in intracellular calcium concentrations. For example, anodal tDCS applied to the surface of the rat sensorimotor cortex led to a rise in the intracellular calcium concentrations [17]. Local increases in calcium can result in short- and long-term changes in synaptic function [18]. In humans, pharmacological studies have also provided indirect evidence to suggest that tDCS after effects are mediated by changes in synaptic plasticity through mechanisms that resemble long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression-like effects [19]. Oral administration of the NMDA-receptor antagonist dextromethorphan was found to suppress the post-tDCS effects of both anodal and cathodal stimulation, suggesting that tDCS after effects involve NMDA receptors [19]. Importantly, modulation of cortical activity with tDCS changes human behavior [20]. For example, in randomized sham-controlled trials, anodal stimulation of the motor cortex (M1) in the lesioned hemisphere was found to improve upper limb outcomes in chronic [21,22,23] and subacute stroke survivors [24,25,26], with behavior changes underpinned by increased cortical activity within the M1 [27]. Although much work remains to be performed regarding optimal stimulation doses, cortical targets and electrode montages, these studies provide some indication that tDCS may be beneficial in stroke recovery.
While there is indication that tDCS has potential to improve stroke recovery of the upper limb [28], there are comparatively fewer studies that have investigated tDCS for lower limb recovery after stroke. Lower limb rehabilitation is especially important, as the simple act of regaining the ability to walk has subsequent effects on the ability to engage in activities of daily living [29,30]. Furthermore, those receiving therapy targeting mobility have been shown to have reduced levels of depression and anxiety [31], which are important determinants of stroke recovery [32,33,34]. Therefore, novel interventions capable of enhancing lower limb recovery might improve not only lower limb motor performance but could have added benefit for stroke rehabilitation in general. The purpose of this review is to discuss tDCS as a technique to modulate brain activity and promote recovery of walking following stroke. Within this review, we will outline current studies that have investigated tDCS to improve lower limb motor performance in both healthy adults and people with stroke. Additionally, we propose a best-practice model of experimental design for lower limb tDCS to guide future application for lower limb stroke recovery.

2. Is it Possible to Modify Lower Limb Motor Networks with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation?

One approach to modify activity of the lower limb motor network with tDCS is to target the M1, similar to studies involving the upper limb. However, targeted application with tDCS is challenging as, compared with upper limb representations, the lower limb M1 representations are more medial and deeper within the interhemispheric fissure (Figure 1). This presents two notable difficulties. First, the ability of targeted stimulation to the lower limb M1 within one hemisphere (e.g., the lesioned hemisphere in stroke) is challenging, as tDCS electrodes can be relatively large compared to the size of cortical representations, resulting in current spread that may inadvertently lead to stimulation within the opposite hemisphere. Second, the depth of the lower limb M1 representations may present a challenge to current penetration and depth with traditional tDCS applications. However, there is evidence to indicate that it is possible to modulate activity of the lower limb M1 with tDCS. Computational modelling has revealed that traditional anodal tDCS electrode montages (anode overlying the lower limb M1 and cathode overlying the contralateral orbit; Figure 1) can lead to the expected cortical excitability enhancement in the target cortex [35]. Indeed, reducing the size of the anode (3.5 cm × 1 cm) was found to improve the specificity of the current delivered to the cortex, while positioning the return electrode (cathode) to a more lateral position (T7/8 on the 10–10 EEG system) further improved current specificity, leading to greater changes in cortical excitability [35]. Experimental evidence also suggests that tDCS targeting the lower limb M1 can modify excitability. Jeffrey and colleagues [36] utilized an anodal-tDCS montage (2 mA, 10 min) over the lower limb M1 and found that motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) of the tibialis anterior muscle increased by as much as 59% compared to sham conditions. Along similar lines, 10 sessions of anodal tDCS (2 mA, 10 min) targeting the lower limb M1 was found to increase the amplitude of MEPs recorded from the paretic tibialis anterior compared to sham stimulation [37]. This empirical evidence provides some support to the computational modelling to suggest that the use of tDCS targeting the lower limb M1 can modify corticospinal excitability.
Although M1 has received attention as a stimulation target to modify excitability of the lower limb M1, there is potential for cerebellar tDCS to induce similar, or possibly more prominent, behavioral and neurophysiological changes. It is noteworthy that a computational modelling study that compared electrode montages targeting M1 and the cerebellum found that cerebellar stimulation produced substantially higher electric field strengths in the target area compared to M1 stimulation, suggesting the cerebellum may indeed be a suitable target for tDCS [38]. Behaviorally, the cerebellum contributes to motor planning, learning, and control; this influence is in part mediated by connections to M1 via the cerebellothalamocortical tracts, previously reported to play a key role in motor skill learning in mice [39]. Although this stimulation technique has received comparatively little attention compared to M1 stimulation, there is some indication that it is possible to modify cerebellar excitability in a focal and polarity specific manner [40]. Whether cerebellar tDCS is required to modify excitability of M1 for behavioral change is unclear. However, if a desired outcome was to modify M1 excitability with cerebellar stimulation, a pertinent challenge would be whether cerebellar tDCS can achieve the specificity required to precisely target the lower limb M1 in one hemisphere. Although speculative, one approach could be to pre-activate M1 through a contralateral lower limb motor task in order to bias the effects of tDCS towards those networks activated to perform the task. In support, there is some evidence in the upper limb that performance of a task during cerebellar tDCS does interact with the change in M1 excitability [41].[…]

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[Review] Immediate and long-term effects of BCIbased rehabilitation of the upper extremity after stroke: a systematic review and metaanalysis – Full Text PDF


Background: A substantial number of clinical studies have demonstrated the functional recovery induced by the use of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology in patients after stroke. The objective of this review is to evaluate the effect sizes of clinical studies investigating the use of BCIs in restoring upper extremity function after stroke and
the potentiating effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on BCI training for motor recovery.

Methods: The databases (PubMed, Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, PsycINFO, and PEDro) were systematically searched for eligible single-group or clinical controlled studies regarding the effects of BCIs in hemiparetic upper extremity recovery after stroke. Single-group studies were qualitatively described, but only controlled-trial studies were included in the meta-analysis. The PEDro scale was used to assess the methodological quality of the controlled studies. A meta-analysis of upper extremity function was performed by pooling the standardized mean difference (SMD). Subgroup meta-analyses regarding the use of external devices in combination with the application of BCIs were also carried out. We summarized the neural mechanism of the use of BCIs on stroke.

Results: A total of 1015 records were screened. Eighteen single-group studies and 15 controlled studies were included. The studies showed that BCIs seem to be safe for patients with stroke. The single-group studies consistently showed a
trend that suggested BCIs were effective in improving upper extremity function. The meta-analysis (of 12 studies) showed a medium effect size favoring BCIs for improving upper extremity function after intervention (SMD = 0.42; 95% CI = 0.18–0.66; I2 = 48%; P < 0.001; fixed-effects model), while the long-term effect (five studies) was not significant (SMD = 0.12; 95% CI = − 0.28 – 0.52; I2 = 0%; P = 0.540; fixed-effects model). A subgroup meta-analysis indicated that using functional electrical stimulation as the external device in BCI training was more effective than using other devices (P = 0.010). Using movement attempts as the trigger task in BCI training appears to be more effective than using motor
imagery (P = 0.070). The use of tDCS (two studies) could not further facilitate the effects of BCI training to restore upper extremity motor function (SMD = − 0.30; 95% CI = − 0.96 – 0.36; I2 = 0%; P = 0.370; fixed-effects model).

Conclusion: The use of BCIs has significant immediate effects on the improvement of hemiparetic upper extremity function in patients after stroke, but the limited number of studies does not support its long-term effects. BCIs combined with functional electrical stimulation may be a better combination for functional recovery than other kinds
of neural feedback. The mechanism for functional recovery may be attributed to the activation of the ipsilesional premotor and sensorimotor cortical network.

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[ARTICLE] tDCS and Robotics on Upper Limb Stroke Rehabilitation: Effect Modification by Stroke Duration and Type of Stroke – Full Text


Objective. The aim of this exploratory pilot study is to test the effects of bilateral tDCS combined with upper extremity robot-assisted therapy (RAT) on stroke survivors. Methods. We enrolled 23 subjects who were allocated to 2 groups: RAT + real tDCS and RAT + sham-tDCS. Each patient underwent 10 sessions (5 sessions/week) over two weeks. Outcome measures were collected before and after treatment: (i) Fugl-Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity (FMA-UE), (ii) Box and Block Test (BBT), and (iii) Motor Activity Log (MAL). Results. Both groups reported a significant improvement in FMA-UE score after treatment (). No significant between-groups differences were found in motor function. However, when the analysis was adjusted for stroke type and duration, a significant interaction effect () was detected, showing that stroke duration (acute versus chronic) and type (cortical versus subcortical) modify the effect of tDCS and robotics on motor function. Patients with chronic and subcortical stroke benefited more from the treatments than patients with acute and cortical stroke, who presented very small changes. Conclusion. The additional use of bilateral tDCS to RAT seems to have a significant beneficial effect depending on the duration and type of stroke. These results should be verified by additional confirmatory studies.

1. Introduction

Stroke is a common primary cause of motor impairments and disability. Only about 15% of those with initial complete upper limb paralysis after stroke recover a functional use of their affected arm in daily life [12]. Greater intensity of upper extremity training after stroke improves functional recovery [3] as well as repetitive task training [4]. Motor practice, in turn, favors motor cortical reorganization, which is correlated with the degree of functional recovery [5]. Robotic devices for upper extremity rehabilitation after stroke have been shown to improve arm function [69]. They may enhance conventional motor therapy, increasing repetitions of well-defined motor tasks (massed practice) with an improvement of motivation due to the feedback of the device; they can be programmed to perform in different functional modalities according to the subject level of motor impairment. Robotic assistance may increase sensory inputs and reduce muscle tone with an overall improved patients’ confidence in performing movements and tasks that, without assistance, might be frustrating or even impossible to achieve [10]. In the past decade, neuromodulation approaches have been proposed with the aim of optimizing stroke motor rehabilitation. Among these, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) represents a noninvasive tool to modulate motor cortical excitability inducing a brain polarization through the application of weak direct electrical currents on the scalp via sponge electrodes [11]. Transient, bidirectional, polarity-dependent modifications in motor cortical excitability can be elicited: anodal stimulation increases it, whereas cathodal stimulation decreases it [1213]. Moreover, on a behavioral viewpoint, tDCS can promote skilled motor function in chronic stroke survivors [14].

After a stroke, changes in motor cortex excitability occur leading to an unbalanced interhemispheric inhibition [11], because the depression of the contralesional hemisphere on the affected one is not balanced by a similar level of inhibition of the lesional hemisphere onto the unaffected one. It has been hypothesized that this phenomenon represents a potential maladaptive process with detrimental effects on arm motor function [15]. On this basis, to increase paretic arm function, an “interhemispheric competition model” has been adopted in noninvasive brain stimulation stroke research [1116]. Specifically, researchers applied anodal tDCS over the affected primary motor cortex (M1) [14], cathodal stimulation over the unaffected M1 [17], or, more recently, a combination of the two stimulation paradigms through a bilateral tDCS montage [18]. How noninvasive brain stimulation effects are relevant when coupled with a peripheral stimulation as rehabilitative interventions is now well established [19]. So far, tDCS effects on motor learning and arm function in stroke population have been extensively addressed in recent systematic reviews and meta-analysis reporting mixed conclusions [2024]. Indeed, the effectiveness and timing of these new rehabilitative techniques need to be defined by further investigations. We can hypothesize that tDCS primes motor cortex circuits, increasing motor cortex excitability that is sustained after a robot-assisted training [25]. Furthermore, the combination of these techniques enhances synaptic plasticity and motor relearning through long-term potentiation- (LTP-) and long-term depression- (LTD-) like phenomena on M1 [26].

The aims of this exploratory pilot study were twofold. Firstly, we wanted to test the effects of a bilateral tDCS montage combined with upper extremity robot-assisted training (RAT) compared to RAT alone on motor recovery, gross motor function, and arm functional use in a heterogeneous sample of stroke survivors. Secondly, we explored whether additional factors such as stroke duration and type could modify and also be predictors of tDCS and RAT response.[…]

Continue —->  tDCS and Robotics on Upper Limb Stroke Rehabilitation: Effect Modification by Stroke Duration and Type of Stroke

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[ARTICLE] Literature Review on the Effects of tDCS Coupled with Robotic Therapy in Post Stroke Upper Limb Rehabilitation – Full Text

Today neurological diseases such as stroke represent one of the leading cause of long-term disability. Many research efforts have been focused on designing new and effective rehabilitation strategies. In particular, robotic treatment for upper limb stroke rehabilitation has received significant attention due to its ability to provide high-intensity and repetitive movement therapy with less effort than traditional methods. In addition, the development of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) has also demonstrated the capability of modulating brain excitability thus increasing motor performance. The combination of these two methods is expected to enhance functional and motor recovery after stroke; to this purpose, the current trends in this research field are presented and discussed through an in-depth analysis of the state-of-the-art. The heterogeneity and the restricted number of collected studies make difficult to perform a systematic review. However, the literature analysis of the published data seems to demonstrate that the association of tDCS with robotic training has the same clinical gain derived from robotic therapy alone. Future studies should investigate combined approach tailored to the individual patient’s characteristics, critically evaluating the brain areas to be targeted and the induced functional changes.


Stroke is one of the leading factors of morbidity and mortality worldwide (Warlow et al., 2001).

In Italy, stroke annual incidence varies between 175/100.000 and 360/100.000 in men and between 130/100.000 and 273/100.000 in women (Sacco et al., 2011). Further, still in Italy, a total of 196.000 individuals are affected by stroke each year, 80% are new episodes and 20% are relapses (Gensini, 2005).

Activities of daily living (ADLs) and human quality of life strongly depend on upper limb functioning (Franceschini et al., 2010). Therefore, one of the goals of post-stroke upper limb rehabilitation is to recover arm and hand functions, and enable the patients to perform ADLs independently.

It is shown in the literature that intensive as well as task-specific training can be very effective in upper limb rehabilitation treatments after stroke (Feys et al., 2004Lo et al., 2010Klamroth-Marganska et al., 2014); this training should be repetitive, challenging and functional for the patients. To this purpose, robotics represents a key enabling technology for addressing these requirements for a well-stratified group of stroke patients (i.e., moderate-to-severe subjects). Clinical studies, varying in design and methods, have examined the effect of robotic devices on upper-limb and lower-limb rehabilitation in a clinical setting (Prange et al., 2006Brewer et al., 2007Mehrholz et al., 2015). Moreover, in a multicenter randomized controlled trial on moderate-to-severe chronic stroke patients, robotic therapy resulted superior to usual care and not inferior to intensive conventional rehabilitation treatment in terms of recovery of upper limb motor function (Lo et al., 2010). In addition, using robotic devices allows delivering new therapy constraints to maximize the required movement pattern (Kwakkel et al., 2007). Therefore, it is possible to control task learning phase more easily with robots than with traditional therapeutic techniques, since robots allows patients to perform guided movements on predefined pathways and avoid possible uncontrolled movements (Kwakkel et al., 2007).

Despite the interesting advancements in this area, the type of therapy leading to optimal results remains controversial and elusive and patients are often left with considerable disability (Bastani and Jaberzadeh, 2012).

Recently, the application of non-invasive neuro-modulation strategies to counteract inter-hemispheric imbalance has been acquiring a growing interest in post-stroke rehabilitation (Duque et al., 2005Hummel and Cohen, 2006Bolognini et al., 2009Kandel et al., 2012). The adjunct of non-invasive interventions, such as the electrical brain stimulation or magnetic brain stimulation (Di Lazzaro et al., 2016), might be used to speed-up and maximize the potential benefit of rehabilitation treatments. In particular, transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) may play an important role in stroke recovery since its capability to modify cortical excitability and neural activity (Lefaucheur, 2016Lefaucheur et al., 2017).

In fact, modulating the excitability of a targeted brain region non-invasively, can favor a normal balance in the interhemispheric interaction and, hence, facilitate the recovery of motor functions of the paretic limb (Kandel et al., 2012).

tDCS consists of applying low-intensity current (1–2 mA) between two or multiple small electrodes on the scalp (Dmochowski et al., 2011). Depending on the electrode polarity, an opposite polarization of brain tissues can be induced with consequent modification of the resting membrane potential. Anodal stimulation will induce depolarization and increased cortical excitability; cathodal stimulation will induce hyperpolarization and decreased cortical excitability (Nitsche and Paulus, 2000Fregni et al., 2005).

In the past, several studies have demonstrated a tDCS effect in terms of increased primary motor cortex activation assessed with fMRI (Hummel et al., 2005Lindenberg et al., 2010).

The inter-hemispheric inhibitory competition model (Duque et al., 2005) implies that, to restore the interhemispheric balance altered after a stroke, one can either increase the excitability of the affected hemisphere with the anodal tDCS, or decrease the activity of the healthy hemisphere with cathodal tDCS (Hummel and Cohen, 2006).

The use of bilateral tDCS (applying simultaneously anodal electrode on the affected hemisphere and cathodal electrode on the unaffected hemisphere, Tazoe et al., 2014) could also be an effective strategy to produce interhemispheric rebalancing effects. Notwithstanding the promising achievements, the debate on tDCS efficacy in neurorehabilitation is still active and not entirely examined (Stagg and Johansen-Berg, 2013).

The application of tDCS might also have an impact on shoulder abduction (SABD) loading effects in individuals with moderate to severe chronic stroke; however, it is insufficient to make significant changes at higher SABD loads (Yao et al., 2015).

Furthermore, several neuromodulatory protocols have been applied together with robotic gait training to induce cortical plasticity and promote motor recovery after stroke. Motor excitability induced by paired associative stimulation, i.e., repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and tDCS has shown to be a potential neuromodulatory adjuvant of walking rehabilitation in patients with chronic stroke (Jayaram and Stinear, 2009) although there was no evidence regarding the efficacy of these protocols with respect to the others.

On the other hand, robot-assisted repetition with electromechanical gait trainer (Hesse et al., 1997Hesse and Uhlenbrock, 2000) improved gait performance and maintained functional recovery at follow-up even during the chronic phase of stroke (Peurala et al., 2005Dias et al., 2007). This could be likely due to the gait-like movement that allowed patients to practice a complete gait cycle, achieving better symmetric and physiological walking (Dias et al., 2007).

In this context, the adjunct of tDCS (delivered over the lower extremity motor cortex) to robotic locomotor exercises showed the capability to enhance the effectiveness of robotic gait training in chronic stroke patients (Danzl et al., 2013).

Conversely, while administering tDCS did not produce any reverse effects on chronic stroke patients, on the other hand it seemed to have no additional effect on robot-assisted gait training (Geroin et al., 2011). This could be due to the peculiar neural organization of locomotion, which involves both cortical (motor cortex) and spinal (central pattern generators) control (Dietz, 2002Geroin et al., 2011).

Recently, another study has supported the hypothesis that anodal tDCS combined with cathodal transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) may be useful to improve the effects of robotic gait training in chronic stroke (Picelli et al., 2015).

Finally, combination of tDCS and robotic training has shown a promising strategy for improving arm, hand and lower extremity motor functions in persons with incomplete spinal cord injury (Raithatha et al., 2016Yozbatiran et al., 2016).

All these approaches justify the growing interest of the scientific community in the evaluation of the effects of upper limb robot-aided motor training coupled with tDCS in stroke, relying on the adjunct of tDCS to further enhance primary effects of motor recovery (Triccas et al., 2016).

This paper intends to carry out an in-depth study of the literature regarding the effects of the combined use of tDCS and RT on motor and functional recovery in post stroke subjects. Moreover, the expected added value provided by this work is to complete the current knowledge in the neurorehabilitation field, by critically evaluating and comparing (when possible) the available results as well as discussing inconsistencies and possible issues. As a final goal, indications for the development of future and more specific rehabilitation protocols tailored to subject’s needs are provided.

The paper is structured as follows. In Section “Overview of the Main Studies on tDCS Coupled with Upper-Limb Robotic Treatment” an overview of clinical studies that analyze effects of tDCS combined with upper limb robotic therapy (RT) is reported.

Section “Discussion” presents a critical discussion of the presented studies aimed to assess the efficacy of this novel combined approach. Finally, Section “Conclusions and future perspectives” reports final considerations and future suggestions.

Overview of the Main Studies on tDCS Coupled with Upper-Limb Robotic Treatment

The study of the effects deriving from the coupled use of tDCS and RT represents a relatively young field of interest. In fact, the number of studies that have tried to investigate and prove the successful combination of these two techniques is limited.

A wide literature search updated to January 2017 has been conducted resorting to the main databases, such as Pubmed Central (PMC), Cochrane, Scopus, Google Scholar. The following keywords have been employed: tDCS AND stroke* OR ictus OR hemiplegia* AND robot* OR robotic therapy*, upper-limb rehabilitation, brain stimulation techniques, neurorehabilitation, rehabilitation robotics. Studies have been included only when focused on the novel therapeutic approach based on tDCS combined with robotic upper limb therapy.

The following inclusion criteria have been utilized:

1. Be a single session clinical trial (i.e., compare pre-treatment and post-treatment performance) or controlled trial (i.e., clinical trial with a control group, either randomized or not).

2. Involve stroke patients.

3. Concern movement therapy with a robotic device.

4. Include transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) as Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Technique.

5. Focus on upper-limb motor control (and possibly functional abilities).

6. Use relevant motor control and functional ability outcome measures.

7. Be a full-length publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

To enable the most complete overview of the current literature, the search has not been limited by patient subgroups (i.e., acute, subacute, or chronic) or by language.

A flowchart of the search and inclusion process is shown in Figure 1. A total of 830 papers has been gathered by using the aforementioned search method. The abstracts matching the inclusion criteria have been selected. When appropriate, the full paper has been read. Therefore, from the initial 830 papers, 820 have been excluded since they did not meet the inclusion criteria. The remaining 10 papers have been carefully read. Eight studies are journal papers while 2 are conference papers.

Figure 1. Flowchart of the search and inclusion process.



Continue —->  Frontiers | Literature Review on the Effects of tDCS Coupled with Robotic Therapy in Post Stroke Upper Limb Rehabilitation | Human Neuroscience

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[Abstract] Timing-dependent interaction effects of tDCS with mirror therapy on upper extremity motor recovery in patients with chronic stroke: A randomized controlled pilot study


  • The priming effect of dual tDCS was important to facilitate motor recovery in combination with mirror therapy in stroke.


This study was a randomized, controlled pilot trial to investigate the timing-dependent interaction effects of dual transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in mirror therapy (MT) for hemiplegic upper extremity in patients with chronic stroke. Thirty patients with chronic stroke were randomly assigned to three groups: tDCS applied before MT (prior-tDCS group), tDCS applied during MT (concurrent-tDCS group), and sham tDCS applied randomly prior to or concurrent with MT (sham-tDCS group). Dual tDCS at 1 mA was applied bilaterally over the ipsilesional M1 (anodal electrode) and the contralesional M1 (cathodal electrode) for 30 min. The intervention was delivered five days per week for two weeks. Upper extremity motor performance was measured using the Fugl-Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity (FMA-UE), the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT), and the Box and Block Test (BBT). Assessments were administered at baseline, post-intervention, and two weeks follow-up. The results indicated that concurrent-tDCS group showed significant improvements in the ARAT in relation to the prior-tDCS group and sham-tDCS group at post-intervention. Besides, a trend toward greater improvement was also found in the FMA-UE for the concurrent-tDCS group. However, no statistically significant difference in the FMA-UE and BBT was identified among the three groups at either post-intervention or follow-up. The concurrent-tDCS seems to be more advantageous and time-efficient in the context of clinical trials combining with MT. The timing-dependent interaction factor of tDCS to facilitate motor recovery should be considered in future clinical application.

via Timing-dependent interaction effects of tDCS with mirror therapy on upper extremity motor recovery in patients with chronic stroke: A randomized controlled pilot study – Journal of the Neurological Sciences

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[ARTICLE] A Novel tDCS Sham Approach Based on Model-Driven Controlled Shunting – Full Text



Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive brain stimulation technique able to transiently modulate brain activity, is surging as one of the most promising therapeutic solutions in many neurological and psychiatric disorders. However, profound limitations exist in current placebo (sham) protocols that limit single- and double-blinding, especially in non-naïve subjects.


/hypothesis: To ensure better blinding and strengthen reliability of tDCS studies and trials, we tested a new optimization algorithm aimed at creating an “active” sham tDCS condition (ActiSham hereafter) capable of inducing the same scalp sensations perceived during real stimulation, while preventing currents from reaching the cortex and cause changes in brain excitability.


A novel model-based multielectrode technique —optimizing the location and currents of a set of small electrodes placed on the scalp— was used to control the relative amount of current delivered transcranially in real and placebo multichannel tDCS conditions. The presence, intensity and localization of scalp sensations during tDCS was evaluated by means of a specifically designed questionnaire administered to the participants. We compared blinding ratings by directly addressing subjects’ ability to discriminate across conditions for both traditional (Bifocal-tDCS and -Sham, using sponge electrodes) and our novel multifocal approach (both real Multifocal-tDCS and ActiSham). Changes in corticospinal excitability were monitored based on Motor Evoked Potentials (MEPs) recorded via concurrent Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and electromyography (EMG).


Subjects perceived Multifocal-tDCS and ActiSham similarly in terms of both scalp sensations and their localization on the scalp, whereas traditional Bifocal stimulation was rated as more painful and annoying compared to its Sham counterpart. Additionally, differences in scalp localization were reported for active/sham Bifocal-tDCS. As for MEPs amplitude, a main effect of stimulation was found when comparing Bifocal-Sham and ActiSham (F(1,13)= 6.67, p=.023), with higher MEPs amplitudes after the application of Bifocal-Sham.


Compared to traditional Bifocal-tDCS, ActiSham offers better participants’ blinding by inducing very similar scalp sensations to those of real Multifocal tDCS both in terms of intensity and localization, while not affecting corticospinal excitability.


Non-invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS) techniques are used to modulate brain activity in a safe and well-tolerated way [1]. In particular, Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), uses low-intensity electrical currents to modulate cortical excitability in a polarity-specific manner [1]. Classical tDCS montages consist of two rectangular sponge electrodes with a contact area of ∼25-35 cm2, where electrical current between 0.5mA and 4mA flows from a positively charged electrode (anode) to a negative one (cathode)[2] passing through various tissue compartments including skin, muscle, bone, cerebrospinal fluid and brain. Due to its safety and relatively low-cost, tDCS experiments have been widely carried out to investigate human neurophysiology and to test its application as a new potential therapeutic solution for neurological and psychiatric conditions. To ensure adequate understanding of the observed effects, however, researchers need to rely on valid and approved control placebo conditions, a fundamental requirement in randomized controlled trials. Traditional standard sham protocols consist on an initial ramp up of the current, followed by a short stimulation period (usually for 5-60 seconds) and a final ramp down [[3][4][5]], (i.e., Fade In of current, brief real Stimulation, Fade-Out; commonly known as “FISSFO” protocol), an approach thought to cause sensory stimulation similar to real tDCS without affecting cortico-spinal excitability [6]. However, both these assumptions (i.e., adequate blinding and absence of effects on the brain) are still under examination. FISSFO sham has been considered effective in providing a proper blinding when compared with real tDCS at 1mA for 20 minutes [6], becoming the standard for sham tDCS [7]. The rationale stems from participants’ reports in which the cutaneous perceptions that generally cue subjects on tDCS being effectively delivered (i.e., tingling or itching sensation), have been mostly reported during the first 30-60 seconds of stimulation to then gradually decrease, possibly due to habituation [4]. However, a recent investigation has revealed that even naïve subjects (N=192) are capable of distinguishing classic sham stimulation (FISSFO) from active tDCS when delivered at 1 mA for 20 minutes over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) [8]. Prior experiments had already suggested blinding inefficacy when real tDCS is applied at 1.5-2 mA, even for only 10 minutes [9,10]. Accordingly, non-naïve subjects seem more capable of distinguishing real from sham tDCS [11] and extreme individual variability has been reported with regard to sensibility to stimulation intensity and duration, with subjects being able to perceive tDCS even at very low intensity (i.e., 400 μA) [11].

On the other hand, additional sham protocols have been developed with modified durations of ramp up/down, or even delivering constant low intensity currents (0.016 or 0.034 mA) [7,12,13]. However, these approaches have not been properly tested on large sample of patients/subjects, with no data on the effects of such alternative sham protocols on the brain, while inconsistent results on many neurophysiological parameters have been documented when adopting such modified approaches [13].

Beyond the single or double blinding efficacy of FISSFO and related approaches [14], an element of interest is the question of whether tDCS effects are due to cortical interaction of the generated electric fields or from peripheral nervous system (PNS) stimulation. Since the ramp-up/ramp-down method for blinding decreases both cortical and peripheral stimulation, they cannot help disentangling cortical and peripheral effects. In addition, cortical effects of the brief period of real stimulation during sham protocols may not completely be excluded [15].

An additional challenge is the fact that the induced tDCS electric field is conditioned by the heterogeneity of cortical and non-cortical tissues, as well as by the complexity of cortical geometry [16]. In recent years, this has been addressed by the use of multichannel tDCS systems in combination with realistic finite element modeling of current propagation in the head derived from subject neuroimaging data (e.g. MRI, fMRI) [17,18]. The rationale for multifocal stimulation resides on both the need for more targeted stimulation of the cortex, as well as the notion that brain regions operate in networks and communicate with each other’s through modulatory interactions [[19][20][21]]. Realistic physical models provide a crucial element for better experimental understanding and control of the electric fields generated by tDCS.

In the present study, we investigate a novel approach to sham stimulation based on controlled shunting of currents via a model-based quantification of transcutaneous and transcranial effects. Specifically, the novel sham tDCS solution benefits from the use of an optimization algorithm allowing tDCS montages to be tailored in such a way that zero or very low magnitude electric fields are delivered on the brain, while medium to high intensity currents are maintained in at least some scalp electrodes, thus eliciting scalp sensations necessary for blinding. Notably, this allows to maintain the stimulation ON for the entire duration of sham tDCS, therefore inducing scalp sensations similar to real tDCS, while avoiding known limitations of the FISSFO protocol. We hypothesize that such montage (Active Sham, ActiSham hereafter) (i) will generate scalp sensations similar to a Multifocal (real) tDCS montage based on the same electrodes’ location and identical stimulation intensity/duration; and that (ii) ActiSham will not induce changes in cortico-spinal excitability (CSE), as assessed through Motor Evoked Potentials (MEPs) induced by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) as an index of corticospinal excitability. If successful, this and similar other approaches for improved sham stimulation could contribute to more efficient design of future tDCS research studies and clinical trials.


Study design

Fourteen subjects participated in 4 randomized tDCS stimulation visits, spaced 7±3 days to ensure no carryover effects. The tDCS conditions were: real Bifocal-tDCS, Bifocal-Sham, real Multifocal-tDCS and ActiSham. Each session lasted approximately 90 minutes during which participants seated in a comfortable chair with their eyes open. To measure changes in corticospinal excitability, single pulse TMS was applied over the left primary motor cortex (M1) at the beginning and the end of each stimulation session. Somatosensory sensations elicited by tDCS were addressed by means of ad-hoc questionnaires. See dedicated sections below for further details about tools and procedures.


Fourteen healthy right-handed naïve subjects (25.4 years ± 2.1; 5 males) were recruited at the University Campus of Siena, School of Medicine (Siena, Italy). Possible contraindications to either TMS or tDCS were assessed by means of a screening questionnaire [22]. Exclusion criteria included: history of seizures, head injury, pacemakers or other implanted medical devices, metallic objects in the head, hearing impairments, medications altering cortical excitability or other significant medical concerns. All participants gave written informed consent prior to participating to the study. The research proposal and associated methodologies were approved by the local ethical committee in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki.


tDCS sessions lasted 15 minutes, with electrode types, scalp montages and stimulation intensities customized for each tDCS protocol (Figure 1). Transcranial stimulation was delivered using a “Starstim 8” brain stimulator controlled via Bluetooth using a laptop computer (Neuroelectrics, Barcelona, Spain). For canonical Bifocal-tDCS (active or sham), stimulation was delivered through traditional 5×7 cm rectangular sponge electrodes, with a contact area of 35 cm2 (SPONSTIM, Neuroelectrics, Barcelona, Spain). Before current delivery, electrodes were soaked with 15 ml of sterile sodium chloride solution (0.9%). For Multichannel stimulation conditions (real and ActiSham), current was instead delivered using circular Ø 20 mm PISTIM electrodes (Neuroelectrics, Barcelona, Spain) with an Ag/AgCl core and a gel/skin contact area of 3.14 cm2. Electrodes were filled with a conductive gel before the tDCS intervention. To further improve current conductivity, the scalp was gently rubbed with an alcohol solution at the beginning of each session. Electrodes were inserted in a neoprene cap with available positions following the 10/20 EEG system.

Figure 1

Figure 1Study design. (A) Active stimulation was delivered for 15 minutes, (30 seconds of ramp up and down). Corticospinal excitability was measured via TMS three times prior to stimulation (Pre-10, Pre-5 and Pre-0) and compared with post measurements collected up to 15 minutes after stimulation (Post-0, Post-5, Post-10, Post-15). Halfway through the protocol (i.e., at minute 7), subjects were asked to rate stimulation-related annoyance and pain levels. tDCS montages for Multifocal-tDCS (B), ActiSham (C), Bifocal-tDCS and Bifocal-Sham (D) are shown.


Continue —-> A Novel tDCS Sham Approach Based on Model-Driven Controlled Shunting – ScienceDirect

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[BLOG POST] tES vs. TMS: pros and cons of the two techniques


At Neuroelectrics, we believe in the advantages and effectiveness of transcranial electric stimulation (tES) in treating numerous brain diseases. Yet, despite the increasing number of tES publications per year, the lion’s share in the market of non-invasive brain stimulation technologies is still played by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), likely because TMS received US-FDA approval in 2008 whereas tES has not yet.

Does this mean TMS is more effective? Well, it’s not quite fair to say so, considering TMS studies started at least 10 years earlier than those of tES. Therefore, there are several more clinical trials proving TMS efficacy.

However, the two techniques are close relatives: you can think of TMS as the elderly, stiff and sturdy brother, and tES as the younger, more flexible and easy-going one.
In this blogpost, we’ll go over the roots of their differences and see when and why you might prefer one over the other.

[E-fields patterns and biophysical substrates]

At a fundamental level, the two techniques rely on different physics and induce distinct patterns of electric fields (E-field) on the cortex, acting on a different neural substrate.

TMS is based on electromagnetic induction: a large magnetic coil is placed just a few centimetres above the scalp to stimulate over a specific cortical area. When the operator launches the electric pulse, vast amounts of current flows suddenly through the coil and creates a magnetic field around it, which varies rapidly in time. This changing magnetic field induces a very short (order of 1ms), highly localized (figure 1), super-threshold (order of 100V/m) E-field in the cortex. The E-field maximum is reached on the gyrus right under the coil, and the orientation is mostly parallel to the cortical surface.
The most sensitive cells to an E-field with such characteristics are interneurons and collaterals of pyramidal cells aligned tangentially to the cortical surface, which are automatically triggered to fire.

Instead, tES operates in the (quasi-)static regime, as only a small amount of direct current (DC) or low frequency alternating current (AC) is applied through electrodes placed directly on the scalp. The temporal resolution of the technique is low because the neuromodulatory effects begins a few seconds after the start of stimulation. Moreover, the E-field generated is much weaker (order of 0.1V/m) and less focalized (although the focality can be improved by using multichannel montages, it remains much lower than TMS E-field). Depending on the electrodes’ geometry, the maxima can occur on the gyri at the edges of the electrodes or between them. The overall orientation of the E-field is normal to the cortical surface, which indicates that tES probably influences layer V pyramidal neurons, as they are mostly perpendicular to the cortex.

Given the low, subthreshold intensity, the tES E-field cannot cause neural firing, but it is able to modulate the firing rate, facilitating or inhibiting the activation of pyramidal cells.


Other important differences concerning system setup.

TMS technology is more complex and cumbersome. The cost of the whole equipment is between 50-100k USD or Euros. This includes a wall-powered and heavy stimulator about the size of a fridge, a coil connected to the stimulator by a high-voltage cable, a mechanical arm to hold it in place, and a neuro-navigation system to accurately place the coil over the target brain region. The coil hangs suspended over the head of the patient, and since the strength of the effects depends on the coil-cortex distance, it’s crucial to keep it at the specific distance. For this, during the treatment session, the patient must sit still in a specially designed chair, with positioning frames around the chin and forehead.

On the contrary, tES is much cheaper and effortless: the cost is between an average of 6-30k USD/Euros, and the whole setup fits a shoe box. The stimulator can be as small as a mobile phone, light/portable, and almost always battery powered. The electrodes are directly in contact with the scalp, held in place by a rubber band or a neoprene cap. This way, the patient can move and even walk during the stimulation session.


Despite the underlying differences, TMS and tES are both quite versatile tools for treatment and research, and they offer similar options.

In research settings, you can leverage on TMS’ high spatial and temporal resolution to study how brain networks dynamically operate. In this context, TMS is usually performed online (during task performance) by applying one pulse at the onset of a stimulus (single-pulse TMS), or two pulses over separate regions which are interconnected (paired-pulses TMS). But tES too allows one to study the causal link between cortical areas. For instance, with tACS, one can simultaneously apply oscillatory currents over distinct regions at the same frequency but with different phases to promote or hamper the synchronization of functional networks.

Clinical applications of brain stimulation techniques instead tend to focus more on long-term effects, promoting network neuroplasticity that can outlast the period of stimulation.
In this case, TMS is usually ran in the repetitive mode (rTMS), which consists in multiple pulses within just microseconds. Frequency lower than 1Hz has been linked to long term depression (LTD), whereas frequency above 5Hz to long term potentiation (LTP). Similar outcomes can be achieved with tCS using either tDCS anodal or cathodal stimulation, which has been shown promoting and inhibiting synaptic activation, respectively.

The side effects of both techniques are quite moderate – with one important exception. While tES can induce only mild and temporary itching, tingling, and skin reddening when done properly, TMS might cause mild headaches, facial twitching, seizures in extreme cases.

For both TMS and tES, medical treatment must be performed mostly in clinical settings, which means you will have to find a clinician who provides these services in their clinic. However, one of the strengths of tES is the possibility to perform stimulation telemedically (under the remote guidance of a clinicians) via home-treatment. This is important as it will boost therapeutic effects for pathologies such as motor rehabilitation, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, etc in the comfort of one’s home. And it has been shown that the number of sessions modulates the length of the long-term plastic effects.

Interested in home-application of tCS? Check our home-kit here.


Figure 1 Distribution of the E-field magnitude on the GM surface (left) and on a midsagittal slice (right) during TMS (A,C) and tDCS  with 35cm2 rectangular sponges (B, D). E-field magnitude is in V/m. Courtesy of Salvador et. al. 2015


Polanía R, Nitsche M.A., Ruff C., Studying and modifying brain function with non-invasive brain stimulation, Nat. neurosci., 21:174–187 (2018)

Dayan E., Censor N., Buch E.R., Sandrini M, Cohen L.G., Noninvasive brain stimulation: from physiology to network dynamics and back, Nat. Neurosci., 16:838–844 (2013)

Salvador R., Wenger C., Miranda P.C. Investigating the cortical regions involved in MEP modulation in tDCS, Front. Cell. Neurosci. 9:405 (2015)


via tES vs. TMS: pros and cons of the two techniques – Blog Neuroelectrics

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[Abstract] Effects of Bihemispheric Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Upper Extremity Function in Stroke Patients: A randomized Double-Blind Sham-Controlled Study


Background and Purpose

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a treatment used in the rehabilitation of stroke patients aiming to improve functionality of the plegic upper extremity. Currently, tDCS is not routinely used in post stroke rehabilitation. The aim of this study was to establish the effects of bihemspheric tDCS combined with physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) on upper extremity motor function.


Thirty-two stroke inpatients were randomised into 2 groups. All patients received 15 sessions of conventional upper extremity PT and OT over 3 weeks. The tDCS group (n = 16) also received 30 minutes of bihemispheric tDCS and the sham group (n = 16) 30 minutes of sham bihemispheric tDCS simultaneously to OT. Patients were evaluated before and after treatment using the Fugl Meyer upper extremity (FMUE), functional independence measure (FIM), and Brunnstrom stages of stroke recovery (BSSR) by a physiatrist blind to the treatment group


The improvement in FIM was higher in the tDCS group compared to the sham group (P = .001). There was a significant within group improvement in FMUE, FIM and BSSR in those receiving tDCS (P = .001). There was a significant improvement in FIM in the chronic (> 6months) stroke sufferers who received tDCS when compared to those who received sham tDCS and when compared to subacute stroke (3-6 months) sufferers who received tDCS/sham.


Upper extremity motor function in hemiplegic stroke patients improves when bihemispheric tDCS is used alongside conventional PT and OT. The improvement in functionality is greater in chronic stroke patients.

via Effects of Bihemispheric Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Upper Extremity Function in Stroke Patients: A randomized Double-Blind Sham-Controlled Study – ScienceDirect

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[WEB SITE] Can a Bit of Electricity Improve Your Brain?

Neuromodulation expands beyond health care.


Source: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Neuromodulation is the use of electrical, magnetic, or chemical stimulation to modulate nervous tissue function. Research studies with promising results from novel treatments using neuromodulations are emerging.

On October 4, 2019, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, led by Professor Helen S. Mayberg, M.D. at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Dr. Andrea Crowell at Emory University, showed that deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression for a majority of the participants had a “robust and sustained antidepressant response” in an over eight-year period, and there were not any suicides.

Earlier this year, in April, Boston University scientists Robert M. G. Reinhart and John A. Nguyen published in Nature Neuroscience a neuromodulation study that demonstrated noninvasive electrical brain stimulation temporarily improved the working memory accuracy in older adults. The study used 84 people—half between the ages of 20-29, and the other half between 60-76 years old.

The scientists hypothesize that their technique improved behavior due to neuroplastic changes in functional connectivity for up to 50 minutes afterward. Additional studies with more test subjects are needed to test the hypothesis and determine the full course potential of the effects.

These are just a few examples of the numerous research studies in neuromodulation. Neuromodulation methods include optogenetics, cochlear implants, retinal implants, deep brain and spinal cord stimulators, pharmacotherapy, and electroceuticals. Potential applications for neuromodulation may include chronic pain managementAlzheimer’s disease, depression, complications due to stroke, traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, migraines, spinal cord injuries, and other conditions. Currently, there are over 590 neuromodulation clinical studies worldwide, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health’s Library of Medicine database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.

Within the growing neuromodulation market, one segment, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), is moving beyond health care and is making inroads into the consumer segment. Transcranial direct current stimulation is a form of noninvasive brain stimulation using a constant weak electrical current. Typically the voltage is less than two milliamps.

One of the earliest records of transcranial direct current stimulation dates to the ancient Roman Empire. The physician to Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, Scribonius Largus, put a live torpedo fish, an electric ray capable of delivering up to 220 volts, directly on a patient in an effort to use the animal’s electrical discharges for pain therapy.

Fast forward to present day, and transcranial direct current stimulation is being used for a variety of purposes as an emerging technology for neuroscientists, elite athletes, e-sports gamers, neurologists, musicians, and psychiatrists—sans the torpedo fish. Instead, electronic devices in various form-factors are used to deliver currents to the human brain noninvasively via the scalp. Consumer-based transcranial direct current stimulation devices operate on the principle of neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change neural connections and behavior.

“Neuroplasticity is the property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience,” wrote the New York Times bestselling author, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, FRCPC, in his 2015 book The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity.

An example of a consumer-based transcranial direct current stimulation device is the Halo Sport 2, a wireless headset introduced in January 2019 that stimulates the brain’s motor cortex through electrical currents to create a temporary state of neuroplasticity. Whether the activity is learning music, dance, or sports, the human brain learns movement via the motor cortex.

The device is made by venture-backed startup Halo Neuroscience, a company founded in 2013 by Daniel Chao, Brett Wingeier, Lee von Kraus, Ph.D., and Amol Sarva, with investments from Jazz Venture Partners, Lux Capital, TPG, Andreessen Horowitz, and others. To use the Halo Sport 2 is simple—neuroprime with the headset on for 20 minutes, then train for an hour afterward.

Halo Sport users include athletes, musicians, and the military—such as members of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors, the U.S. Navy SEALs, USA Cycling, the United States Ski Team, Berklee College of Music, Invictus, as well as many others.

World champion triathlete Timothy O’Donnell is a Halo Sport user. O’Donnell has over 50 podium finishes, including 22 wins. He won two IRONMAN titles, six Armed Forces National Championships, nine Ironman 70.3 races, an ITU Long Distance World Champion race, and many other prestigious competitive triathlon medals. As a world-class elite athlete, O’Donnell is constantly seeking innovative ways to improve his performance. He reportedly reached out to Halo Neuroscience after reading about the technology and incorporates Halo Sport neuropriming in his training to give him an edge.

A number of investments in neuroscience companies have emerged in recent years, such as Bryan Johnson’s Kernel, Elon Musk’s Neuralink, and Tej Tadi’s MindMaze. Other neurotechnology startups include Synchron, founded by Nicholas Opie and Thomas Oxley, BIOS founded by Emil Hewage and Oliver Armitage, BrainCo founded by Bicheng Han, Nextmind founded by Gwendal Kerdavid and Sid Kouider, Thync founded by Isy Goldwasser and Jamie Tyler, EMOTIV founded by Tan Le and Dr. Geoff Mackellar, Paradromics founded by Matt Angle, Bitbrain founded by Javier Minguez Zafra and Maria Lopez Valdes, Flow Neuroscience founded by Daniel Månsson and Erik Rehn, Dreem founded by Hugo Mercier and Quentin Soulet de Brugière, Neuros Medical founded by Jon J. Snyder, Neurable founded by James Hamet, Michael Thompson and Ramses Alcaide, Cognixion founded by Andeas Forsland, Q30 Innovations founded by Bruce Angus and Thomas Hoey, Neuroscouting founded by Dr. Wesley Clapp and Dr. Brian Miller, and Meltin MMI founded by Masahiro Kasuya, and Neuropace founded by David R. Fischell.

The global neuromodulation device industry is expected to increase to 13.3 billion by 2022, according to Neurotech Reports figures published in September 2018. Within this growing space, consumer-based transcranial direct current stimulation is an emerging market to watch.


via Can a Bit of Electricity Improve Your Brain? | Psychology Today

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