Objective: To improve gait and balance in patients with Parkinson's disease by combining anodal transcranial direct current stimulation with physical training.
Design: In a double-blind design, one group (physical training; n = 8) underwent gait and balance training during transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS; real/sham). Real stimulation consisted of 15 minutes of 2 mA transcranial direct current stimulation over primary motor and premotor cortex. For sham, the current was switched off after 30 seconds. Patients received the opposite stimulation (sham/real) with physical training one week later; the second group (No physical training; n = 8) received stimulation (real/sham) but no training, and also repeated a sequential transcranial direct current stimulation session one week later (sham/real).
Setting: Hospital Srio Libanes, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Subjects: Sixteen community-dwelling patients with Parkinson's disease.
Interventions: Transcranial direct current stimulation with and without concomitant physical training.
Main measures: Gait velocity (primary gait outcome), stride length, timed 6-minute walk test, Timed Up and Go Test (secondary outcomes), and performance on the pull test (primary balance outcome).
Results: Transcranial direct current stimulation with physical training increased gait velocity (mean = 29.5%, SD = 13; p < 0.01) and improved balance (pull test: mean = 50.9%, SD = 37; p = 0.01) compared with transcranial direct current stimulation alone. There was no isolated benefit of transcranial direct current stimulation alone. Although physical training improved gait velocity (mean = 15.5%, SD = 12.3; p = 0.03), these effects were comparatively less than with combined tDCS + physical therapy (p < 0.025). Greater stimulation-related improvements were seen in patients with more advanced disease.
Conclusions: Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation during physical training improves gait and balance in patients with Parkinson's disease. Power calculations revealed that 14 patients per treatment arm (α = 0.05; power = 0.8) are required for a definitive trial.
Keywords: Cerebral cortex; Parkinson’s disease; electrical stimulation therapy; exercise therapy; gait.
© The Author(s) 2014.