Purpose: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has mixed effects on walking performance in individuals poststroke. This is likely the result of variations in tDCS electrode montages and individualized responses. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effects of a single session of tDCS using various electrode montages on poststroke walking performance.
Methods: Individuals with chronic stroke ( n = 16) participated in a double-blind, randomized cross-over study with sham stimulation and three tDCS electrode montages. Gait speed, paretic step ratio, and paretic propulsion were assessed prestimulation and poststimulation at self-selected and fastest comfortable speeds. Changes in muscle activation patterns with self-selected walking were quantified by the number of modules derived from nonnegative matrix factorization of EMG signals for hypothesis generation.
Results: There was no significant effect of active stimulation montages compared with sham. Comparisons between each participant's best response to tDCS and sham show personalized tDCS may have a positive effect on fastest comfortable overground gait speed ( P = 0.084), paretic step ratio ( P = 0.095) and paretic propulsion ( P = 0.090), and self-selected paretic step ratio ( P = 0.012). Participants with two or three modules at baseline increased module number in response to the all experimental montages and sham, but responses were highly variable.
Conclusions: A single session of tDCS may affect clinical and biomechanical walking performance, but effects seem to be dependent on individual response variability to different electrode montages. Findings of this study are consistent with responses to various tDCS electrode montages being the result of underlying neuropathology, and the authors recommend examining how individual factors affect responses to tDCS.
Copyright © 2021 by the American Clinical Neurophysiology Society.