Background. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been suggested to improve poststroke recovery. However, its effects on bimanual motor learning after stroke have not previously been explored. Objective. We investigated whether dual-tDCS of the primary motor cortex (M1), with cathodal and anodal tDCS applied over undamaged and damaged hemispheres, respectively, improves learning and retention of a new bimanual cooperative motor skill in stroke patients. Method. Twenty-one chronic hemiparetic patients were recruited for a randomized, double-blinded, cross-over, sham-controlled trial. While receiving real or sham dual-tDCS, they trained on a bimanual cooperative task called CIRCUIT. Changes in performance were quantified via bimanual speed/accuracy trade-off (Bi-SAT) and bimanual coordination factor (Bi-Co) before, during, and 0, 30, and 60 minutes after dual-tDCS, as well as one week later to measure retention. A generalization test then followed, where patients were asked to complete a new CIRCUIT layout. Results. The patients were able to learn and retain the bimanual cooperative skill. However, a general linear mixed model did not detect a significant difference in retention between the real and sham dual-tDCS conditions for either Bi-SAT or Bi-Co. Similarly, no difference in generalization was detected for Bi-SAT or Bi-Co. Conclusion. The chronic hemiparetic stroke patients learned and retained the complex bimanual cooperative task and generalized the newly acquired skills to other tasks, indicating that bimanual CIRCUIT training is promising as a neurorehabilitation approach. However, bimanual motor skill learning was not enhanced by dual-tDCS in these patients.
- motor skill learning
- bimanual coordination
- Noninvasive brain stimulation
- noninvasive brain stimulation