Mechanisms of aphasia recovery after stroke and the role of noninvasive brain stimulation

Brain Lang. 2011 Jul;118(1-2):40-50. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2011.02.005. Epub 2011 Apr 2.


One of the most frequent symptoms of unilateral stroke is aphasia, the impairment or loss of language functions. Over the past few years, behavioral and neuroimaging studies have shown that rehabilitation interventions can promote neuroplastic changes in aphasic patients that may be associated with the improvement of language functions. Following left hemisphere strokes, the functional reorganization of language in aphasic patients has been proposed to involve both intrahemispheric interactions between damaged left hemisphere and perilesional sites and transcallosal interhemispheric interactions between the lesioned left hemisphere language areas and homotopic regions in the right hemisphere. A growing body of evidence for such reorganization comes from studies using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), two safe and noninvasive procedures that can be applied clinically to modulate cortical excitability during post-stroke language recovery. We discuss a hierarchical model for the plastic changes in language representation that occur in the setting of dominant hemisphere stroke and aphasia. We further argue that TMS and tDCS are potentially promising tools for enhancing functional recovery of language and for further elucidating mechanisms of plasticity in patients with aphasia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aphasia / etiology*
  • Aphasia / physiopathology
  • Aphasia / rehabilitation*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Recovery of Function
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation