Aphasia is a common, debilitating consequence of stroke, and speech therapy is often inadequate to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Neuromodulation techniques have emerged as a potential augmentative treatment for improving aphasia outcomes. Most studies have targeted the cerebrum, but there are theoretical and practical reasons that stimulation over the cerebral hemispheres might not be ideal. On the other hand, the right cerebellum is functionally and anatomically linked to major language areas in the left hemisphere, making it a promising alternative target site for stimulation.To provide preliminary effect sizes for the ability of a short course of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) targeted over the right cerebellum to enhance language processing in individuals with chronic poststroke aphasia.Ten individuals received five sessions of open-label anodal tDCS targeting the right cerebellum. The effects of the tDCS were compared with the effects of sham tDCS on 14 controls from a previous clinical trial. In total, 24 individuals with chronic poststroke aphasia participated in the study. Behavioral testing was conducted before treatment, immediately following treatment, and at the 3-month follow-up.Cerebellar tDCS did not significantly enhance language processing measured either immediately following treatment or at the 3-month follow-up. The effect sizes of tDCS over sham treatment were generally nil or small, except for the mean length of utterance on the picture description task, for which medium to large effects were observed.These results may provide guidance for investigators who are planning larger trials of tDCS for individuals with chronic poststroke aphasia.
Andrew T DeMarco, Elizabeth Dvorak, Elizabeth Lacey, Catherine J Stoodley, Peter E Turkeltaub