Objective: To assess single-session effects of three different types of stimuli known to increase cortical excitability when combined with functional task practice. Design: Randomized cross-over trial. Participants: A total of 24 participants with chronic cervical spinal cord injury. Interventions: One 30-minute session of each, applied concurrently with functional task practice: transcranial direct current stimulation, vibration, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Measurements: Nine-hole Peg Test, pinch force, visuomotor tracking, and cortical excitability were collected at pretest, posttest and late posttest (30 minutes after). Early effects (posttest minus pretest) and short-term persistence (late posttest minus pretest) were assessed using a general linear mixed model. Magnitude of effect size was assessed using the Cohens d. Results: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation was associated with moderate, significant early effects and short-term persistence on Nine-hole Peg Test performance (1.8 ±1.8, p = 0.003, d = 0.59; 2.0 ±2.5, p < 0.001, Cohens d = 0.65, respectively). Transcranial direct current stimulation (1.8 ±2.5, p = 0.003, Cohens d = 0.52) was also associated with significant short-term persistence of moderate size on Nine-hole Peg Test performance (1.8 ±2.5, p = 0.003, Cohens d = 0.52) and visuomotor tracking performance (p = 0.05, d = 0.51). Early effects on corticomotor excitability were significant for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (p = 0.003), approached significance for transcranial direct current stimulation (p = 0.07), and only vibration was associated with significant short-term persistence (p = 0.006). Conclusions: Meaningful improvements in aspects of hand-related function that persisted at least 30 minutes after intervention were observed with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation, when combined with functional task practice.
- Cervical spinal cord injury
- functional task practice
- transcranial direct current stimulation
- transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation