Efficacy of Noninvasive Brain Stimulation Paired with Language Therapy in the Treatment of Primary Progressive Aphasia: An Exploratory Meta-Analysis

Brain Sciences. 10 (9) (pp 1-18), 2020. Article Number: 597. Date of Publication: 2020.

Nissim N.R.; Moberg P.J.; Hamilton R.H.

Noninvasive brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), paired with behavioral language therapy, have demonstrated the capacity to enhance language abilities in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a debilitating degenerative neurological syndrome that leads to declines in communication abilities. The aim of this meta-analysis is to systematically evaluate the efficacy of tDCS and TMS in improving language outcomes in PPA, explore the magnitude of effects between stimulation modalities, and examine potential moderators that may influence treatment effects. Standard mean differences for change in performance from baseline to post-stimulation on language-related tasks were evaluated. Six tDCS studies and two repetitive TMS studies met inclusion criteria and provided 22 effects in the analysis. Random effect models revealed a significant, heterogeneous, and moderate effect size for tDCS and TMS in the enhancement of language outcomes. Findings demonstrate that naming ability significantly improves due to brain stimulation, an effect found to be largely driven by tDCS. Future randomized controlled trials are needed to determine long-term effectiveness of noninvasive brain stimulation techniques on language abilities, further delineate the efficacy of tDCS and TMS, and identify optimal parameters to enable the greatest gains for persons with PPA.