Effect of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation on poststroke cognitive impairment: a study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

BMJ Open. 2024 Apr 10;14(4):e082764. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-082764.


INTRODUCTION: Poststroke cognitive impairment is a common complication in stroke survivors, seriously affecting their quality of life. Therefore, it is crucial to improve cognitive function of patients who had a stroke. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) are non-invasive, safe treatments with great potential to improve cognitive function in poststroke patients. However, further improvements are needed in the effectiveness of a single non-invasive brain stimulation technique for cognitive rehabilitation. This study protocol aims to investigate the effect and neural mechanism of the combination of tDCS and taVNS on cognitive function in patients who had a stroke.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: In this single-centre, prospective, parallel, randomised controlled trial, a total of 66 patients with poststroke cognitive impairment will be recruited and randomly assigned (1:1:1) to the tDCS group, the taVNS group and the combination of tDCS and taVNS group. Each group will receive 30 min of treatment daily, five times weekly for 3 weeks. Primary clinical outcome is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Secondary clinical outcomes include the Mini-Mental State Examination, Stroop Colour Word Test, Trail Marking Test, Symbol Digit Modalities Test and Modified Barthel Index. All clinical outcomes, functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging will be measured at preintervention and postintervention.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The trial has been approved by the Ethics Committee of the First Affiliated Hospital of Yangtze University (approval no: KY202390). The results will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals or at scientific conferences.


PMID:38604630 | DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2023-082764