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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 1686414, 8 pages
Research Article

Effects of a Single Session of High Intensity Interval Treadmill Training on Corticomotor Excitability following Stroke: Implications for Therapy

1Department of Physical Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
2Department of Exercise Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Received 16 May 2016; Revised 13 July 2016; Accepted 26 July 2016

Academic Editor: Sheng Li

Copyright © 2016 Sangeetha Madhavan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. High intensity interval treadmill training (HIITT) has been gaining popularity for gait rehabilitation after stroke. In this study, we examined the changes in excitability of the lower limb motor cortical representation (M1) in chronic stroke survivors following a single session of HIITT. We also determined whether exercise-induced changes in excitability could be modulated by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) enhanced with a paretic ankle skill acquisition task. Methods. Eleven individuals with chronic stroke participated in two 40-minute treadmill-training sessions: HIITT alone and HITT preceded by anodal tDCS enhanced with a skill acquisition task (e-tDCS+HIITT). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to assess corticomotor excitability of paretic and nonparetic tibialis anterior (TA) muscles. Results. HIIT alone reduced paretic TA M1 excitability in 7 of 11 participants by ≥ 10%. e-tDCS+HIITT increased paretic TA M1 excitability and decreased nonparetic TA M1 excitability. Conclusions. HIITT suppresses corticomotor excitability in some people with chronic stroke. When HIITT is preceded by tDCS in combination with a skill acquisition task, the asymmetry of between-hemisphere corticomotor excitability is reduced. Significance. This study provides preliminary data indicating that the cardiovascular benefits of HIITT may be achieved without suppressing motor excitability in some stroke survivors.