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Study: Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) can reduce fatigue in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)


Leigh Charvet, PhD and a mem­ber of her research team use the tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion (tDCS) equip­ment. Cred­it: NYU Lan­gone Health


Tran­scra­nial Direct Cur­rent Stim­u­la­tion Shown to Reduce Fatigue Asso­ci­at­ed with Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis (NYU Lagone Health press release):

Peo­ple with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS) who under­went a non-inva­sive form of elec­tri­cal brain stim­u­la­tion expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions in fatigue, a com­mon and often debil­i­tat­ing symp­tom of the dis­ease…When com­pared to patients who were enrolled in a place­bo arm of the study, those that received the stim­u­la­tion —called tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion, or tDCS —were found to have about a six-point drop on a 32-point scale mea­sur­ing fatigue sever­i­ty, accord­ing to the find­ings recent­ly pub­lished online in the Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis Jour­nal.

Because fatigue is a com­mon com­plaint with MS, and with no effec­tive treat­ments to address it, the researchers, encour­aged by their find­ings, note that they may point to a future role for this tech­nol­o­gy in treat­ing this par­tic­u­lar symp­tom. How­ev­er, they also cau­tion the need to val­i­date the find­ings in larg­er stud­ies —and strong­ly cau­tion indi­vid­u­als with MS not to try over-the-counter stim­u­la­tion tech­nolo­gies at home or out­side of a rig­or­ous research set­ting…

The exact mech­a­nism behind tDCS is unclear and requires more research. It is thought to change the brain’s cor­ti­cal excitabil­i­ty by mak­ing it eas­i­er for neu­rons to fire, there­by improv­ing con­nec­tions and expe­dit­ing learn­ing that takes place dur­ing reha­bil­i­ta­tion.”

The Study

Remote­ly super­vised tran­scra­nial direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion for the treat­ment of fatigue in mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis: Results from a ran­dom­ized, sham-con­trolled tri­al (Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis Jour­nal). From the abstract:

  • Objec­tive: To eval­u­ate whether tDCS can reduce fatigue in indi­vid­u­als with MS.
  • Meth­ods: Dor­so­lat­er­al pre­frontal cor­tex left anodal tDCS was admin­is­tered using a RS-tDCS pro­to­col, paired with 20?minutes of cog­ni­tive train­ing. Here, two stud­ies are con­sid­ered. Study 1 deliv­ered 10 open-label tDCS treat­ments com­pared to a cog­ni­tive train­ing only con­di­tion. Study 2 was a ran­dom­ized tri­al of active or sham deliv­ered for 20 ses­sions. Fatigue was assessed using the Patient-Report­ed Out­comes Mea­sure­ment Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem (PROMIS)—Fatigue Short Form.
  • Con­clu­sion:  tDCS is a poten­tial treat­ment for MS-relat­ed fatigue.

The Study in Context

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