Benefits of aerobic exercise on the gait of Parkinson's patients can be enhanced immediately after a session of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), as per a study at the São Paulo State University's Institute of Biosciences (IB-UNESP) in Rio Claro, Brazil, published in Neurorehabilitation & Neural Repair.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects movement due to loss of nerve cells - neurons that produce a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) in the brain called dopamine (black substance).
PD is characterized by the formation of inclusion proteins called Lewy bodies, triggered by the misfolding of a protein called alpha-synuclein that accumulates in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra.
‘Benefits of aerobic exercise on the gait of Parkinson’s patients can be enhanced immediately after a session of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). ’
It affects around 1% of the world population over 65 years of age as per the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019. Almost 250,000 people are affected in Brazil.
Effects of Aerobic Exercise and Transcranial Stimulation
The study was a randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled crossover study. The team analyzed 20 volunteers by placing the electrodes over specific brain regions and giving them a painless treatment through a weak current (2 milliamperes).
Along with the treatment the participants were also given two 30-minute sessions of aerobic exercise (cycling at moderate intensity) one week apart. The cognitive functions, pre-frontal cortex activity and spatiotemporal parameters of the participants were then assessed while walking.
"Despite the limitations of such a small sample size, we found that transcranial stimulation activated the pre-frontal cortex, a brain region that Parkinson's patients use more to control gait than healthy individuals. A single session associated with exercise enhanced cognitive function and produced other improvements," says Vitório, currently a Research Fellow at Northumbria University's Faculty of Health and Life Sciences in the United Kingdom.
The study thereby explored the effects of tDCS at a greater depth than earlier reported. And this effect also improved the motor activity in Parkinson's patients by enhancing benefits of the aerobic exercise.
"Transcranial stimulation is safe and has been found promising to potentiate the effect of interventions and treatments. It's often prescribed for depression, for example," says Vitório.