Background: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that has been shown to improve common symptoms of neurological disorders like depressed mood, fatigue, motor deficits and cognitive dysfunction. tDCS requires daily treatment sessions in order to be effective. We developed a remotely supervised tDCS (RS-tDCS) protocol for participants with multiple sclerosis (MS) to increase accessibility of tDCS, reducing clinician, patient, and caregiver burden. The goal of this protocol is to facilitate home use for larger trials with extended treatment periods. In this study we determine the generalizability of RS-tDCS paired with cognitive training (CT) by testing its feasibility in participants with Parkinson's disease (PD).
Methods: Following the methods in our MS protocol development, we enrolled sixteen participants (n = 12 male, n = 4 female; mean age 66 years) with PD to complete ten open-label sessions of RS-tDCS paired with CT (2.0 mA × 20 min) at home under the remote supervision of a trained study technician. Tolerability data were collected before, during, and after each individual session. Baseline and follow-up measures included symptom inventories (fatigue and sleep) and cognitive assessments.
Results: RS-tDCS was feasible and tolerable for patients with PD, with at-home access leading to high protocol compliance. Side effects were mostly limited to mild sensations of transient itching and burning under the electrode sites. Similar to prior finding sin MS, we found preliminary efficacy for improvement of fatigue and cognitive processing speed in PD.
Conclusions: RS-tDCS paired with CT is feasible for participants with PD to receive at home treatment. Signals of benefit for reduced fatigue and improved cognitive processing speed are consistent across the PD and MS samples. RS-tDCS can be generalized to provide tDCS to a range of patients with neurologic disorders for at-home rehabilitation.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02746705 . Registered April 21st 2016.
Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; Telerehabilitation; Transcranial direct current stimulation; tDCS.