RATIONALE: Restoration of adequate standing balance after stroke is of major importance for functional recovery. POstural feedback ThErapy combined with Non-invasive TranscranIAL direct current stimulation (tDCS) in patients with stroke (POTENTIAL) aims to establish if cerebellar tDCS has added value in improving standing balance performance early post-stroke.
METHODS: Forty-six patients with a first-ever ischemic stroke will be enrolled in this double-blind controlled trial within five weeks post-stroke. All patients will receive 15 sessions of virtual reality-based postural feedback training (VR-PFT) in addition to usual care. VR-PFT will be given five days per week for 1 h, starting within five weeks post-stroke. During VR-PFT, 23 patients will receive 25 min of cerebellar anodal tDCS (cb_tDCS), and 23 patients will receive sham stimulation.
STUDY OUTCOME: Clinical, posturographic, and neurophysiological measurements will be performed at baseline, directly post-intervention, two weeks post-intervention and at 15 weeks post-stroke. The primary outcome measure will be the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) for which a clinical meaningful difference of six points needs to be established between the intervention and control group at 15 weeks post-stroke.
DISCUSSION: POTENTIAL will be the first proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial to assess the effects of VR-PFT combined with cerebellar tDCS in terms of standing balance performance in patients early post-stroke. Due to the combined clinical, posturographical and neurophysiological measurements, this trial may give more insights in underlying post-stroke recovery processes and whether these can be influenced by tDCS.