Non-invasive brain stimulation (rTMS and tDCS) in patients with aphasia: Mode of action at the cellular level

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A high proportion of patients who have suffered a stroke also suffer from aphasia. Approximately half of those affected will remain in this state despite intensive language therapy. Non-invasive brain stimulation allows us to directly and focally stimulate areas of the brain. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), methods used in the treatment of aphasia, are based on an imbalance of mutual interhemispheric inhibition. In open and sham-controlled studies, a low-frequency, 1. Hz stimulation of the non-lesioned hemisphere (the homologue of Broca's area) for a week or more significantly improved spontaneous speech and anomia in patients with non-fluent aphasia. These positive outcomes from rTMS stimulation developed slowly, often over months following treatment, and persisted. Effects of intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) developed faster than the low-frequency stimulation, and high-activity enhancement was detected in the left hemisphere after the stimulation of Broca's region. Both types of tDCS stimulation resulted in improved comprehension and reduced anomia, their primary modes of action are distinct, however, both share a common site of action with regard to the balance that occurs between inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters (synaptic and non-synaptic). Both types of non-invasive stimulation prepare the lesioned brain for better outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - Aug 20 2013



  • Aphasia
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)
  • Stroke
  • Synaptic and non-synaptic transmission
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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