[responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to Post”]
Direct current electrical stimulation to the brain and spinal cord appeared effective in treating symptoms of neurodegenerative ataxia, researchers in Italy said.
In a double-blind, randomized, crossover trial, ataxia patients who had transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) showed improvement in all performance areas, motor cortex excitability, and cerebellar brain inhibition compared with sham stimulation, reported Barbara Borroni, MD, of the University of Brescia, and co-authors in Neurology.
"We found that treatment with concurrent cerebellar and spinal electrical stimulation in patients with ataxia may reduce clinical symptoms, improve quality of life and restore the physiological inhibition, mediated by the cerebellum, on the motor cortex," co-author Alberto Benussi, MD, also of the University of Brescia, told MedPage Today. "This is of particular relevance in light of limited pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatment options for patients with ataxia."
tDCS delivers a low-voltage electrical current to the scalp or spine. It is non-invasive and has been studied in chronic pain, post-stroke dysphagia, and as adjunctive treatment in bipolar depression.
For most hereditary and sporadic ataxias, no effective treatment exists. While tDCS has shown promise in posture, gait, and kinetic functions in ataxia patients, much research focused on the brain alone, not the brain and spinal cord together.
In this study, researchers studied 20 patients with different kinds of cerebellar ataxia. Patients were an average of age 55 and had ataxia an average of 13 years.
They randomized patients 1:1. Each group received cerebello-spinal stimulation (2 mA for 20 minutes) or sham stimulation for 5 days a week for 2 weeks; after a 3-month washout period, patients received the opposite treatment.
At baseline and follow-up, researchers evaluated cerebello-motor connectivity with transcranial magnetic stimulation. They used the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) and the International Cooperative Ataxia Rating Scale (ICARS) to evaluate cerebellar deficits, the 9-Hole Peg Test (9HPT) to gauge finger dexterity and upper limb coordination, and the 8-meter walking time (8MW) to assess gait speed.