Author(s): Michou E, Mistry S, Jefferson S, Singh S, Rothwell J,
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Abstract BACKGROUND & AIMS: Patients with stroke experience swallowing problems (dysphagia); increased risk of aspiration pneumonia, malnutrition, and dehydration; and have increased mortality. We investigated the behavioral and neurophysiological effects of a new neurostimulation technique (paired associative stimulation [PAS]), applied to the pharyngeal motor cortex, on swallowing function in healthy individuals and patients with dysphagia from stroke. METHODS: We examined the optimal parameters of PAS to promote plasticity by combining peripheral pharyngeal (electrical) with cortical stimulation. A virtual lesion was used as an experimental model of stroke, created with 1-Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the pharyngeal cortex in 12 healthy individuals. We tested whether hemispheric targeting of PAS altered swallowing performance before applying the technique to 6 patients with severe, chronic dysphagia from stroke (mean of 38.8 ± 24.4 weeks poststroke). RESULTS: Ten minutes of PAS to the unlesioned pharyngeal cortex reversed (bilaterally) the cortical suppression induced by virtual lesion (lesioned: F(1,9) = 21.347, P = .001; contralesional: F(1,9) = 9.648, P = .013; repeated-measures analysis of variance) compared with sham PAS. It promoted changes in behavior responses measured with a swallowing reaction time task (F(1,7) = 21.02, P = .003; repeated-measures analysis of variance). In patients with chronic dysphagia, real PAS induced short-term bilateral changes in the brain; the unaffected pharyngeal cortex had increased excitability (P = .001; 95\% confidence interval, 0.21-0.05; post hoc paired t test) with reduced penetration-aspiration scores and changes in swallowing biomechanics determined by videofluoroscopy. CONCLUSIONS: The beneficial neurophysiological and behavioral properties of PAS, when applied to unlesioned brain, provide the foundation for further investigation into the use of neurostimulation as a rehabilitative approach for patients with dysphagia from stroke. Copyright © 2012 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Gastroenterology
and referenced in International Journal of Neurorehabilitation