Improved grasp function with transcranial direct current stimulation in chronic spinal cord injury

Document Type

Journal Article


IOS Press

Place of Publication



School of Medical and Health Sciences




Cortes, M., Medeiros, A. H., Gandhi, A., Lee, P., Krebs, H. I., Thickbroom, G., & Edwards, D. (2017). Improved grasp function with transcranial direct current stimulation in chronic spinal cord injury. NeuroRehabilitation, 41(1), 51-59. Available here.


BACKGROUND: Recovering hand function has important implications for improving independence of patients with tetraplegia after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive neuromodulation technique that has potential to improve motor function. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of one session of 1mA, 2mA, and sham anodal tDCS (a-tDCS) in the upper extremity (hand) motor performance (grasp and lease) in patients with chronic cervical SCI. METHODS: Eleven participants with incomplete SCI were randomized to receive 20 minutes of 1mA, 2mA, or sham stimulation over the targeted motor cortex over three separated sessions. Hand motor performance was measured by a hand robotic evaluation (kinematics) and the Box and Blocks (BB) test before and after the stimulation period. RESULTS: A significant improvement on the grasp mean to peak speed ratio (GMP) was observed in the 2mA group (pre: 0.38±0.02; post: 0.43±0.03; mean±SEM; p=0.031). There was no statistically significant difference in BB test results, however the 2mA intervention showed a positive trend for improvement. CONCLUSIONS: A single session of 2mA of a-tDCS showed gains in hand motor function in patients with chronic SCI that were not observed in functional clinical scales. The use of robotic kinematics showed promising results in assessing small changes in motor performance. Further studies are necessary to determine whether tDCS can be an effective long-term rehabilitation strategy for individuals with SCI



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