Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and robotic practice in chronic stroke: The dimension of timing

V. Giacobbe, H.I. Krebs, B.T. Volpe, A.M. Pascual- Leone, A. Rykman, G. Zeiarati, F.F. Fregni, L. Dipietro, Gary Thickbroom, Dylan Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Combining tDCS with robotic therapy is a new and promising form of neurorehabilitation after stroke, however the effectiveness of this approach is likely to be influenced by the relative timing of the brain stimulation and the therapy. OBJECTIVE: To measure the kinematic and neurophysiological effects of delivering tDCS before, during and after a single session of robotic motor practice (wrist extension). METHODS: We used a within-subjects repeated-measurement design in 12 chronic (>6 months) stroke survivors. Twenty minutes of anodal tDCS was delivered to the affected hemisphere before, during, or after a 20-minute session of robotic practice. Sham tDCS was also applied during motor practice. Robotic motor performance and corticomotor excitability, assessed through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), were evaluated pre- and post-intervention. RESULTS: Movement speed was increased after motor training (sham tDCS) by ∼20%. Movement smoothness was improved when tDCS was delivered before motor practice (∼15%). TDCS delivered during practice did not offer any benefit, whereas it reduced speed when delivered after practice (∼10%). MEPs were present in ∼50% of patients at baseline; in these subjects motor practice increased corticomotor excitability to the trained muscle. CONCLUSIONS: In a cohort of stroke survivors, motor performance kinematics improved when tDCS was delivered prior to robotic training, but not when delivered during or after training. The temporal relationship between non-invasive brain stimulation and neurorehabilitation is important in determining the efficacy and outcome of this combined therapy. © 2013 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-56
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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