Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a promising tool to improve and speed up motor rehabilitation after stroke, but inconsistent clinical effects refrain tDCS from clinical implementation. Therefore, this study aimed to assess the need for individualized tDCS configurations in stroke, considering interindividual variability in brain anatomy and motor function representation. We simulated tDCS in individualized MRI-based finite element head models of 21 chronic stroke subjects and 10 healthy age-matched controls. An anatomy-based stimulation target, i.e. the motor hand knob, was identified with MRI, whereas a motor function-based stimulation target was identified with EEG. For each subject, we simulated conventional anodal tDCS electrode configurations and optimized electrode configurations to maximize stimulation strength within the anatomical and functional target. The normal component of the electric field was extracted and compared between subjects with stroke and healthy, age-matched controls, for both targets, during conventional and optimized tDCS. Electrical field strength was significantly lower, more variable and more frequently in opposite polarity for subjects with stroke compared to healthy age-matched subjects, both for the anatomical and functional target with conventional, i.e. non-individualized, electrode configurations. Optimized, i.e. individualized, electrode configurations increased the electrical field strength in the anatomical and functional target for subjects with stroke but did not reach the same levels as in healthy subjects. Considering individual brain structure and motor function is crucial for applying tDCS in subjects with stroke. Lack of individualized tDCS configurations in subjects with stroke results in lower electric fields in stimulation targets, which may partially explain the inconsistent clinical effects of tDCS in stroke trials.
- Source localization
- Volume conduction models