Background and Purpose—Although there has been extensive research on the effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to improve patients’ motor performance after experiencing chronic stroke, explicit findings on the coupling of different rTMS protocols are meager. We designed this sham-controlled randomized study to investigate the potential for a consecutive suppressive-facilitatory TMS protocol to improve motor outcomes after chronic stroke.
Methods—Fifty-four chronic hemiplegic stroke patients were allocated across 4 groups to undergo 20 daily sessions of (1) 1 Hz rTMS over the contralesional primary motor cortex (M1) and then intermittent theta burst stimulation over the ipsilesional M1 (group A); (2) contralesional sham stimulation and then ipsilesional real intermittent theta burst stimulation (group B); (3) contralesional real 1 Hz rTMS and then ipsilesional sham stimulation (group C); or (4) bilateral sham-control procedures (group D). We tested cortical excitability and motor activity assessments at the baseline, postpriming rTMS, and postconsequent rTMS periods.
Results—At post, group A showed greater muscle strength, Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA), Wolf Motor Function test, and reaction time improvement in comparison with group B (P＜0.001≈0.003) and group C (P=0.001≈0.003). Correlation analyses in group A revealed a close relation between contralesional map area decrement and Wolf Motor Function test gain (P=0.005; r=−0.75), and also revealed ipsilesional map area increment and reaction time decrement (P=0.02; r=−0.87). We detected no such relations in the other 3 groups.
Conclusions—Our clinical trials established an extended timeframe during which conditioning could be safely continued and produced more favorable outcomes in facilitating motor performance and ameliorating interhemispheric imbalance than those obtained from single-course rTMS modulation alone.