In a clinical trial led by University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health communication sciences and disorders professor, Dr. Julius Fridriksson, researchers found that post-stroke aphasia patients who received transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) saw a 70 percent improvement in their ability to name common objects, a typical outcome measure used to assess speech production ability, compared to participants who did not receive tDCS.
The study, which was the first large randomized controlled trial to examine the effect of tDCS on aphasia, observed that patients who received tDCS combined with speech therapy increased their correct object naming by 13.9 words while participants who received sham (placebo) tDCS combined with speech therapy increased their correct object naming by 8.2 words.
“At six months following treatment completion, the improvement associated with the aphasia treatment was more than doubled for the patients who received electrical stimulation compared to those who received the placebo stimulation,” says Dr. Fridriksson. “If this effect is supported by future research, it could mean a major change in how rehabilitation of stroke is administered.”
Aphasia, a communication disorder resulting from stroke or injury to the brain that impacts patients’ ability to speak, listen, read and/or write but does not affect intelligence, is present in approximately 30 percent of all cases of stroke. Experts estimate that two million people in the United States are living with chronic aphasia.
Previous research suggests that behavioral treatment (i.e., speech therapy) is effective in improving communication and quality of life among individuals with long-term aphasia. However, recovery is often minimal, even with therapy.