Early Brain Stimulation After Stroke

Non-invasive brain stimulation may help stroke survivors recover speech and language function.



Between 20 and 30 percent of stroke survivors have aphasia, which affects their ability to grasp language, read, write or speak. It’s most often caused by lesions in areas of the brain that control speech and language.

“For decades, skilled speech and language therapy has been the only therapeutic option for stroke survivors with aphasia,” said Alexander Thiel, M.D., study lead author and associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal. “We are entering exciting times where we might be able in the near future to combine speech and language therapy with non-invasive brain stimulation earlier in the recovery. This could result in earlier and more efficient aphasia recovery and also have an economic impact.”

In the small study in Germany, researchers treated 24 survivors with several types of aphasia. Thirteen received transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and 11 got sham stimulation.

The TMS device is a handheld magnetic coil that delivers low intensity stimulation and elicits muscle contractions when applied over the motor cortex.

“We believe brain stimulation should be most effective early, within about five weeks after stroke...”

During sham stimulation the coil was placed over the top of the head where there is a large venous blood vessel and not a language-related brain region. The intensity for stimulation was lower so that participants still had the same sensation on the skin but no effective electrical currents were induced in the brain tissue.

Patients received 20 minutes of TMS or sham stimulation followed by 45 minutes of speech and language therapy for 10 days.

The TMS groups’ improvements were on average three times greater than the non-TMS group. They used German language aphasia tests, which are similar to those in the United States, to measure language performance of the patients.

“TMS had the biggest impact on improvement in anomia, the inability to name objects, which is one of the most debilitating aphasia symptoms,” Thiel said.

“We believe brain stimulation should be most effective early, within about five weeks after stroke, because genes controlling the recovery process are active during this time window,” he said.

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

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Stroke Support Group Finder

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Tips for Daily Living Library

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Stroke Family Warmline

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Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

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Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

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When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

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When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

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The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

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Life At The Curb

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Helping Others Understand

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Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!