Treatment of visuospatial neglect with biparietal tDCS and cognitive training: a single-case study.
Brem A-K., Unterburger E., Speight I., Jäncke L.
Symptoms of visuospatial neglect occur frequently after unilateral brain damage. Neglect hampers rehabilitation progress and is associated with reduced quality of life. However, existing treatment methods show limited efficacy. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a neuromodulatory technique, which can be used to increase or decrease brain excitability. Its combination with conventional neglect therapy may enhance treatment efficacy. A 72-year-old male with a subacute ischemic stroke of the right posterior cerebral artery suffering from visuospatial neglect, hemianopia, and hemiparesis was treated with biparietal tDCS and cognitive neglect therapy in a double-blind, sham-controlled single-case study. Four weeks of daily treatment sessions (5 days per week, 30 min) were started 26 days post-stroke. During week 1 and 4 the patient received conventional neglect therapy, during week 2, conventional neglect therapy was combined once with sham and once with real biparietal tDCS. Week 3 consisted of daily sessions of real biparietal tDCS (1 mA, 20 min) combined with neglect therapy. Outcome measures were assessed before, immediately after, as well as 1 week and 3 months after the end of treatment. They included subtests of the Test for Attentional Performance (TAP): covert attention (main outcome), alertness, visual field; the Neglect-Test (NET): line bisection, cancelation, copying; and activities of daily living (ADL). After real stimulation, covert attention allocation toward left-sided invalid stimuli was significantly improved, and line bisection and copying improved qualitatively as compared to sham stimulation. ADL were only improved at the 3-month follow-up. This single-case study demonstrates for the first time that combined application of tDCS and cognitive training may enhance training-induced improvements in measures of visuospatial neglect and is applicable in a clinical context.