Individuals with stroke often experience difficulty in dual-task walking and are prone to falling when walking and talking. Previous studies in other populations have suggested that non-invasive brain stimulation could enhance dual-task gait performance by stimulating dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) or supplementary motor area (SMA). It was unclear if the benefits of brain stimulation would be observed in individuals with stroke.
Would single-session 5 Hz rTMS applied to DLPFC or SMA improve dual-task gait performance in individuals with stroke?
This single group repeated measure study included fifteen individuals with left chronic stroke (mean age = 58 years). Participants received 5 Hz rTMS to either DLPFC, SMA, or M1 of the left lesioned hemisphere across three different sessions. Single- and dual-task gait speed was assessed before and after rTMS with the dualtask gait being walking and counting backward by 3 s.
We observed that rTMS to left DLPFC resulted in a greater increase in dual-task gait speed, but not single-task gait speed, compared to the other two stimulation sites (M1 and SMA) but the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.06). Five out of fifteen participants demonstrated a clinically significant improvement in dual-task gait speed (> 0.1 m/s) after rTMS to DLPFC.
The results suggest that DLPFC could be a potential treatment target to improve dual-task gait performance in persons with chronic stroke.

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