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Stroke Research and Treatment
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 170256, 14 pages
Review Article

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Stroke Rehabilitation: A Review of Recent Advancements

Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1K 3M4

Received 10 October 2012; Revised 17 December 2012; Accepted 14 January 2013

Academic Editor: Petra Henrich-Noack

Copyright © 2013 Andrea Gomez Palacio Schjetnan 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.


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising technique to treat a wide range of neurological conditions including stroke. The pathological processes following stroke may provide an exemplary system to investigate how tDCS promotes neuronal plasticity and functional recovery. Changes in synaptic function after stroke, such as reduced excitability, formation of aberrant connections, and deregulated plastic modifications, have been postulated to impede recovery from stroke. However, if tDCS could counteract these negative changes by influencing the system’s neurophysiology, it would contribute to the formation of functionally meaningful connections and the maintenance of existing pathways. This paper is aimed at providing a review of underlying mechanisms of tDCS and its application to stroke. In addition, to maximize the effectiveness of tDCS in stroke rehabilitation, future research needs to determine the optimal stimulation protocols and parameters. We discuss how stimulation parameters could be optimized based on electrophysiological activity. In particular, we propose that cortical synchrony may represent a biomarker of tDCS efficacy to indicate communication between affected areas. Understanding the mechanisms by which tDCS affects the neural substrate after stroke and finding ways to optimize tDCS for each patient are key to effective rehabilitation approaches.