Background: Neurodegenerative cerebellar ataxias represent a group of disabling disorders for which we currently lack effective therapies. Cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive technique, which has been demonstrated to modulate cerebellar excitability and improve symptoms in patients with cerebellar ataxias.
Objective: The present study investigated whether a two-weeks' treatment with cerebellar anodal tDCS could improve symptoms in patients with neurodegenerative cerebellar ataxia and could modulate cerebello-motor connectivity, at short and long term.
Methods: We performed a double-blind, randomized, sham controlled trial with cerebellar tDCS (5 days/week for 2 weeks) in twenty patients with ataxia. Each patient underwent a clinical evaluation pre- and post-anodal tDCS or sham stimulation. A follow-up evaluation was performed at one and three months. Cerebello-motor connectivity was evaluated using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at baseline and at follow-up.
Results: Patients who underwent anodal tDCS showed a significant improvement in all performance scores (scale for the assessment and rating of ataxia, international cooperative ataxia rating scale, 9-hole peg test, 8-m walking time) and in cerebellar brain inhibition compared to patients who underwent sham stimulation.
Conclusions: A two-weeks' treatment with anodal cerebellar tDCS improves symptoms in patients with ataxia and restores physiological cerebellar brain inhibition pathways. Cerebellar tDCS might represent a promising future therapeutic and rehabilitative approach in patients with neurodegenerative ataxia.
Keywords: Cerebellar ataxia; Cerebellar stimulation; Transcranial direct current stimulation.
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