Method—Twelve well-recovered chronic patients with subcortical stroke attended 2 training sessions during which either cathodal tDCS or a sham intervention were applied to the contralesional motor cortex in a double-blind, crossover design. Two different motor sequences, matched for their degree of complexity, were tested in a counterbalanced order during as well as 90 minutes and 24 hours after the intervention. Potential underlying mechanisms were evaluated with transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Results—tDCS facilitated the acquisition of a new motor skill compared with sham stimulation (P=0.04) yielding better task retention results. A significant correlation was observed between the tDCS-induced improvement during training and the tDCS-induced changes of intracortical inhibition (R2=0.63).
Conclusions—These results indicate that tDCS is a promising tool to improve not only motor behavior, but also procedural learning. They further underline the potential of noninvasive brain stimulation as an adjuvant treatment for long-term recovery, at least in patients with mild functional impairment after stroke.