Using Electrical Brain Stimulation to Improve Aphasia Treatment

SLHS Colloquium – March 6, 2018 12:30-1:30PM in HBL Video Theater 2

Title: Using Electrical Brain Stimulation to Improve Aphasia Treatment Outcome

Although aphasia therapy has been shown to be effective, many patients experience no or only minimal benefit. Pilot studies suggest transcranial electrical brain stimulation may enhance the effect of aphasia therapy, providing some patients greater chance at showing a positive treatment response. In a recent double-blinded randomized controlled trial, we enrolled 74 individuals with chronic stroke in aphasia treatment coupled with either anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (A-tDCS) or sham tDCS (S-tDCS). All participants received three weeks of computerized aphasia treatment administered five times per week. Thirty-four participants were randomized to receive A-tDCS and 40 participants received S-tDCS during the first 20 minutes of each 45-minute treatment session. The primary outcome was naming of both trained and untrained words assessed at 1-week, 4-weeks, and 6-months after treatment completion. Significantly more items were named by the A-tDCS group compared the S-tDCS at each time-point (1-tailed t-test). An interaction was revealed between genotype (BDNF gene) and treatment response suggesting a mechanistic explanation for why A-tDCS works for some patients and not others. The implications of this work and next steps will be discussed.

Julius Fridriksson, Ph.D.
Endowed Professor, SmartState
Director, Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery (C-STAR)
Co-Director, McCausland Center for Brain Imaging
University of South Carolina
Lab website:
C-STAR website: