Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms post-stroke, which has a severe impact on the quality of life. Post-stroke fatigue is associated with reduced motor cortical excitability, specifically of the affected hemisphere.The aim of this exploratory study was to assess whether fatigue symptoms can be reduced by increasing cortical excitability using anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).In this sham-controlled, double-blind intervention study, tDCS was applied bilaterally over the primary motor cortex in a single session in thirty stroke survivors with high severity of fatigue. A questionnaire-based measure of trait fatigue (primary outcome) was obtained before, after a week and 5 weeks post stimulation. Secondary outcome measures of state fatigue, motor cortex neurophysiology and perceived effort were also assessed pre, immediately post, a week and 5 weeks post stimulation.Anodal tDCS significantly improved fatigue symptoms a week after real stimulation when compared to sham stimulation. There was also a significant change in motor cortex neurophysiology of the affected hemisphere and perceived effort, a week after stimulation. The degree of improvement in fatigue was associated with baseline anxiety levels.A single session of anodal tDCS improves fatigue symptoms with the effect lasting up to a week post stimulation. tDCS may therefore be a useful tool for managing fatigue symptoms post-stroke.NCT04634864 DATE OF REGISTRATION: 17/11/2020-"retrospectively registered".
William De Doncker, Sasha Ondobaka, Annapoorna Kuppuswamy