Combined therapy pairing transcranial direct current stimulation and cognitive training computer games can increase problem solving ability and response time in patients with multiple sclerosis, according to a new study.
Results from the study, performed by researchers at NYU’s Langone’s Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center, was published today in the journal Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface.
Data from the study indicated that MS patients who used tDCS while playing cognitive training computer games designed to improve information processing abilities reported “significantly greater gains in cognitive measures” than those who performed the training games alone.
Participants in the study were able to complete both the cognitive training and tDCS treatments at home, researchers indicated, which eliminates the need for repeat clinic visits, something that can be a challenge for people with MS as their disease progresses.
A total of 25 patients were provided with tDCS headset systems to use alongside the training programs, while 20 participants played the training games alone. Researchers found that participants using tDCS showed greater improvements on sensitive, computer-based measures of complex attention as well as increases in response times across trials compared to the training game only group.
“Our research adds evidence that tDCS, while done remotely under a supervised treatment protocol, may provide an exciting new treatment option for patients with multiple sclerosis who cannot get relief for some of their cognitive symptoms. Many MS medications are aimed at preventing disease flares but those drugs do not help with daily symptom management, especially cognitive problems. We hope tDCS will fill this crucial gap and help improve quality of life for people with MS,” lead researcher Leigh Charvet of NYU Langone’s Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center said in a press release.
Improvements noted in the study were shown to increase over time with the number of sessions, leading reaserchers to believe that tDCS treatment could have a cumulative benefit. The researchers noted that more research would be needed to explore how long htose effects last. Improvements were similar between groups in less sensitive standard neuropsychological measures, including Brief International Cognitive Assessment in MS tests.
Researchers in the trial said they are recruiting more patients for future trials exploring possible additional benefits or effects of tDCS sessions, as well as the effect the treatment has on other neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s.