Noninvasive brain stimulation may improve swallowing after stroke

Mar 24, 2011

Stroke patients who received electrical brain stimulation coupled with swallowing exercises showed greater improvement in swallowing ability than patients who did not receive this stimulation, according to a pilot study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, is a common and serious stroke complication. It can lead to aspiration, when food or foreign matter accidentally enters the lungs causing . Aspiration and aspiration pneumonia are common complications after stroke and can be deadly.

The non-invasive brain stimulation used in this study (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, or tDCS) uses a weak electrical current. It is transmitted via electrodes placed on the scalp, to increase activity in targeted areas of the brain. Researchers noted:

• Patients who received increased their ability to swallow by more than 2.5 points on a seven-point swallowing scale, compared to slightly more than one point among those who did not receive the treatment. This was statistically significant, so it was not likely due to chance.

• Overall, swallowing ability improved by at least two points in 86 percent of patients receiving stimulation, and in 43 percent of those who did not. While these percentages showed a trend toward improvement, they did not reach statistical significance, likely due to the small study size.

"Further studies are warranted to refine this promising intervention by exploring effects of stimulation parameters, frequency of stimulation, and timing of the intervention in improving swallowing functions in dysphagic-stroke patients," researchers noted.

The study comprised 14 patients recruited from the inpatient stroke center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. All patients had suffered an ischemic within the previous one to seven days. Participants were randomized so that some received tDCS to the brain regions that control swallowing while others received "sham stimulation." Those receiving sham stimulation were prepped as if they are going to receive tDCS but did not.

Explore further: Human brain has coping mechanism for dehydration

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain stimulation improves dexterity

Oct 27, 2008

Applying electrical stimulation to the scalp and the underlying motor regions of the brain could make you more skilled at delicate tasks. Research published today in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience shows that a non- ...

Electrical brain stimulation improves math skills

Nov 04, 2010

By applying electrical current to the brain, researchers reporting online on November 4 in Current Biology, have shown that they could enhance a person's mathematical performance for up to 6 months withou ...

Recommended for you

Diet affects men's and women's gut microbes differently

2 minutes ago

The microbes living in the guts of males and females react differently to diet, even when the diets are identical, according to a study by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and six other institutions published ...

Researchers explore what happens when heart cells fail

1 hour ago

Through a grant from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation, Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Naomi Chesler will embark upon a new collaborative research project to better understand ...

Stem cells from nerves form teeth

3 hours ago

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered that stem cells inside the soft tissues of the tooth come from an unexpected source, namely nerves. These findings are now being published in the journal Nature and co ...

User comments : 0