Can tDCS enhance treatment of aphasia after stroke?

Aphasiology. 2012 Sep;26(9):1169-1191. doi: 10.1080/02687038.2011.616925. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


BACKGROUND: Recent advances in the application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in healthy populations have led to the exploration of the technique as an adjuvant method to traditional speech therapies in patients with post-stroke aphasia. AIMS: THE PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW IS: (i) to review the features of tDCS that make it an attractive tool for research and potential future use in clinical contexts; (ii) to describe recent studies exploring the facilitation of language performance using tDCS in post-stroke aphasia; (iii) to explore methodological considerations of tDCS that may be key to understanding tDCS in treatment of aphasia post stroke; and (iv) to highlight several caveats and outstanding questions that need to be addressed in future work. MAIN CONTRIBUTION: This review aims to highlight our current understanding of the methodological and theoretical issues surrounding the use of tDCS as an adjuvant tool in the treatment of language difficulties after stroke. CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary evidence shows that tDCS may be a useful tool to complement treatment of aphasia, particularly for speech production in chronic stroke patients. To build on this exciting work, further systematic research is needed to understand the mechanisms of tDCS-induced effects, its application to current models of aphasia recovery, and the complex interactions between different stimulation parameters and language rehabilitation techniques. The potential of tDCS is to optimise language rehabilitation techniques and promote long-term recovery of language. A stimulating future for aphasia rehabilitation!