Electronic brain stimulation improves stroke-related swallowing difficulties, study finds

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Transcranial brain stimulation can help improve outcomes for individuals who have difficulties with swallowing following a stroke, results of a pilot study suggest.

In a trial that studied 16 stroke patients with swallowing-related disorders, investigators treated all of the participants with ten 30-minute sessions of traditional swallowing therapy. The investigators then divided the group in half. Participants assigned to the treatment group received 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) followed by 10 minutes of swallowing training.

When subjects were evaluated for swallowing improvement immediately following the sessions, there was little difference between the groups. Three months later, however, participants in the treatment group demonstrated significant improvements.

"Our pilot study demonstrated that ten daily sessions of tDCS over the affected esophageal motor cortex of the brain hemisphere affected by the stroke, combined with swallowing training, improved post-stroke dysphagia,” lead investigator Nam-Jong Paik, M.D., Ph.D., said. The study was conducted through the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.

Results of the study were published in the July issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.