TMS as a Biological Marker of Neuroplasticity


Phase N/A Results N/A

Trial Description

TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique, which can be used to change the activity of a person's brain cells without needles or surgery. In this study, the invesigators are interested in the brain's ability to adapt (also called "neuroplasticity") and regain language functioning after a stroke—specifically, they want to determine whether how a person's brain responds to TMS in the short term can be used to predict how well they will recover language abilities in the long term.

Detailed Description

Aphasia is an impairment of language that may occur after a stroke (or other brain injuries). A person with aphasia may experience difficulties speaking, understanding speech, reading, writing, or any combination of these symptoms. Despite advances in understanding of language systems and functional neuroplasticity after brain injury, accurate predictors of aphasia recovery after stroke remain elusive. In order to better understand, predict, and enhance language improvement after stroke, there is a critical need to develop tools that can assess the influence of neuroplasticity on recovery.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation tool that has been used to predict the brain's neuroplastic capacity by assessing physiological responses observed immediately following administration of TMS. Additionally, difference in the physiological response to TMS have been shown to be affected by polymorphism in the gene coding for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The current project explores the idea that because neural mechanisms of plasticity are essential determinants of both recovery after brain injury and physiologic response to TMS, magnetic brain stimulation could be employed as an indicator of the capacity for clinically relevant neuroplasticity, and potentially as a predictor of recovery from post-stroke deficits such as aphasia
The goals of this protocol are to 1) explore the utility of theta burst stimulation (TBS), a type of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), as a tool for assessing neuroplasticity in the language system in patients with aphasia due to stroke, 2) and to assess the utility of TBS as a biomarker and predictor of functional recovery in patients with aphasia.
This protocol will encompass two separate but related experiments. In the first experiment, the investigators will apply TBS to brain regions that control language functions in aphasic patients in order to determine whether we can induce a transient improvement in naming ability. They will use a statistical model they have developed to categorize patients as either having High Plasticity or Low Plasticity. The investigators will determine whether this distinction predicts which patients are likely to have greater TBS-induced changes in language performance. In the second experiment, in the same patients, the investigators will apply TBS to the motor cortex to elicit changes in motor evoked potentials (MEPs). Using the same model to form matched groups, we predict that MEPs will be more attenuated in High Plasticity groups compared to the Low Plasticity group.



  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Device
    Other Names: TMS
    Intervention Desc: TMS is a form of non-invasive brain stimulation which uses magnetic pulses to stimulate regions of the brain from outside the head, on the scalp. Specifically, TMS is performed with a copper-and-plastic coil that emits a magnetic field, which can affect brain cells in specific locations. In this study, researchers will also use a form of TMS called theta-burst stimulation (TBS), where TMS pulses are delivered rapidly over time.
    ARM 1: Kind: Experimental
    Label: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of Motor Cortex
    Description: All study participants will receive real TMS stimulation over the primary motor cortex in order to collect physiological measures which will later be correlated with measures of neuroplasticity. There is NO placebo stimulation.
    ARM 2: Kind: Experimental
    Label: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of Language Cortex
    Description: All study participants will receive real TMS stimulation over the language cortex and a control site (i.e. vertex). Transient changes in speech production will be recorded and compared to measures of neuroplasticity. There is NO placebo stimulation.

Trial Design

  • Observation: Case-Only
  • Perspective: Cross-Sectional
  • Sampling: Non-Probability Sample

Trial Population

Individuals who have had one or more strokes and are now experiencing the symptoms of aphasia. Aphasia is a communication disorder which may result in difficulties speaking,understanding speech, or both.


Type Measure Time Frame Safety Issue
Primary Transient TBS-induced changes in motor evoked potentials (MEPs) Up to 2 week No
Primary Transient TBS-induced changes in language performance Up to 4 weeks No
Secondary Safety and Tolerability of TBS in patient with aphasia Through study completion Yes

Biospecimen Retention:Samples With DNA - The investigators are asking participants to provide a saliva sample which will later be genotyped for the BDNF protein. Saliva samples are optional.