Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
February 2018, Vol. 30, No. 2, Pages 188-199
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Transcranial Cerebellar Direct Current Stimulation Enhances Verb Generation but Not Verb Naming in Poststroke Aphasia
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Although the role of the cerebellum in motor function is well recognized, its involvement in the lexical domain remains to be further elucidated. Indeed, it has not yet been clarified whether the cerebellum is a language structure per se or whether it contributes to language processing when other cognitive components (e.g., cognitive effort, working memory) are required by the language task. Neuromodulation studies on healthy participants have suggested that cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a valuable tool to modulate cognitive functions. However, so far, only a single case study has investigated whether cerebellar stimulation enhances language recovery in aphasic individuals. In a randomized, crossover, double-blind design, we explored the effect of cerebellar tDCS coupled with language treatment for verb improvement in 12 aphasic individuals. Each participant received cerebellar tDCS (20 min, 2 mA) in four experimental conditions: (1) right cathodal and (2) sham stimulation during a verb generation task and (3) right cathodal and (4) sham stimulation during a verb naming task. Each experimental condition was run in five consecutive daily sessions over 4 weeks. At the end of treatment, a significant improvement was found after cathodal stimulation only in the verb generation task. No significant differences were present for verb naming among the two conditions. We hypothesize that cerebellar tDCS is a viable tool for recovery from aphasia but only when the language task, such as verb generation, also demands the activation of nonlinguistic strategies.