Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Post-Stroke Fatigue

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Texas Woman's University






Device: Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation
Device: Sham transcranial direct current stimulation

Study type


Funder types



R15HD109737 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)
1R15HD109737-01A1 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)

Details and patient eligibility


The goal of this phase I/II clinical trial is to determine the behavioral and neural effects of 5-daily transcranial direct current stimulation on post-stroke fatigue. The three aims are:

Aim 1: Investigate the behavioral effect of 5 daily sessions of anodal tDCS over the ipsilesional M1 on PSF.

Aim 2: Investigate the neurophysiological effect of 5 daily sessions of anodal tDCS over the ipsilesional M1.

Aim 3: Determine the relationship between changes in M1 excitability, brain connectivity and changes in PSF.

Participants will receive either a real or sham stimulation for 5 consecutive days and fatigue will be assessed before, immediately after and 1-month after the intervention. Fatigue will be assessed using clinical, behavioral, and neurophysiological outcomes.

Full description

Up to 85% stroke survivors experience post-stroke fatigue (PSF) defined as intensified perceived effort during activities. PSF is a significant barrier to full participation in rehabilitation and negatively affects quality of life after stroke. Despite its well-known impacts, there are very few targeted interventions for PSF largely due to unclear underlying mechanisms. A few brain stimulation studies have suggested a relationship between primary motor cortex (M1) excitability and PSF. Recent clinical trials using anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to modulate brain excitability reported mixed clinical efficacy in reducing PSF with unclear mechanisms of action.

The proposed research will address the gaps in our knowledge by determining the behavioral and neural correlates of PSF using an experimental design and multimodal approach.

Thirty-two individuals with significant fatigue due stroke will be randomly assigned to receive five consecutive sessions of anodal or sham tDCS. Before and after intervention, participants will complete clinical and behavioral assessments of PSF, brain excitability assessment using transcranial magnetic stimulation, and brain connectivity assessment using resting state functional MRI. In aim 1, the investigators will determine if upregulating M1 excitability via tDCS will reduce PSF assessed by clinical and behavioral markers. Aim 2 will utilize brain stimulation and brain imaging techniques to probe the neurophysiological effect of tDCS on PSF. Aim 3 will explore the relationship between changes in neurophysiological outcomes and changes in PSF.

The long-term goal of the team is to develop evidence based, theory-driven interventions to manage PSF. The proposed study is innovative in that it investigates a relative novel intervention to mitigate PSF and adopts a multimodal approach to examine the underlying mechanisms. The comprehensive research will guide the development of treatment targeted the underlying mechanisms of PSF. In addition to its scientific and clinical significances, the proposed research will achieve its educational goals by fostering a group of student researchers and promoting rigorous research cultures within the investigator's institute.


32 estimated patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  1. be at least 18 years old;
  2. have a history of unilateral stroke ≥ 3 months prior to enrollment to ensure stability;
  3. have an average score ≥ 4 on FSS;
  4. have some movement capability in the more affected arm (upper extremity Fugl-Meyer(FMUE) ≥ 28) to ensure they can perform the reaching task;
  5. be able to follow three-step commands.

Exclusion criteria

  1. acute medical problems;
  2. the presence of any contraindication to tDCS, MRI or TMS;
  3. the presence of significant depression (score > 10 on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9);
  4. significant pain in the upper extremities that interferes with movements; or
  5. use of medication which may affect the level of fatigue.

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Double Blind

32 participants in 2 patient groups

Anodal tDCS group
Experimental group
Participants will receive anodal tDCS applied to the ipsilesional primary motor cortex.
Device: Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation
Sham tDCS
Sham Comparator group
Participants will receive sham tDCS applied to the ipsilesional primary motor cortex
Device: Sham transcranial direct current stimulation

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Hui-Ting Goh

Data sourced from

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