Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve naming ability in post-stroke aphasia: A critical review

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Abstract

Purpose:

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive neuromodulation tool that can be used to influence cortical brain activity to induce measurable behavioral changes. Although there is growing evidence that tDCS combined with behavioural language therapy could boost language recovery in patients with post-stroke aphasia, there is great variability in patient characteristics, treatment protocols, and outcome measures in these studies that poses challenges for analyzing the evidence. The purpose of this study is to critically analyze the methodological rigor of the evidence regarding the use of tDCS for post-stroke anomia.

Method:

This critical review was conducted by searching four databases (MEDLINE, EMBase, PsycINFO, and CINAHL). Nineteen studies fully met the inclusion criteria. Three critical appraisal tools and Robey and Schultz's (1998) five- phase model for conducting clinical outcome research were adopted to evaluate and analyze the current level of evidence. Methodological issues of the studies were also identified.

Results:

The current level of evidence for using tDCS for anomia is at the pre-efficacy level with emerging evidence at the efficacy level. Lack of proper evaluation of carry-over effects in cross-over studies, lack of or unclear randomization, allocation concealment, and incomplete data handling were the main methodological issues that could threaten the validity of the tDCS for anomia studies.

Conclusions:

Several methodological issues have been identified in pre-efficacy studies that pose challenges in determining whether tDCS is a beneficial adjunct to behavioral aphasia therapy. Future studies need to improve the quality of the methods used to investigate the effect of tDCS for anomia.

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