Background. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the motor cortex can enhance the performance of a paretic upper extremity after stroke. Reported effects on lower limb (LL) function are sparse. Objective. The authors examined whether tDCS can increase the force production of the paretic quadriceps. Methods. In this double-blind, crossover, sham-controlled experimental design, 8 participants with chronic subcortical stroke performed knee extension using their hemiparetic leg before, during, and after anodal or sham tDCS of the LL motor cortex representation in the affected hemisphere. Affected hand-grip force was also recorded. Results. The maximal knee-extension force increased by 21 N (13.2%, P <.01) during anodal tDCS compared with baseline and sham stimulation. The increase persisted less than 30 minutes. Maximal hand-grip force did not change. Conclusions. Anodal tDCS transiently enhanced knee extensor strength. The modest increase was specific to the LL. Thus, tDCS might augment the rehabilitation of stroke patients when combined with lower extremity strengthening or functional training.
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