Does tDCS treat stroke?

There has been over a decade of research on tDCS for healing the brain after an injury such as stroke. There are numerous published studies and reviews that can be found here but the fact that there is so much information can make it hard to understand what is really going on. Here is a summary:

1)    Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a wearable battery-powered stimulation that delivers barely perceptible electrical current to the brain.

2)    tDCS is considered safe in almost all cases of current use, provided proper equipment is used and protocols followed.

3)    When tDCS is used for bran rehabilitation, such as after a stroke, it is almost always paired with some kind of physical or cognitive therapy. The idea is that the tDCS boosts the therapy. This means you get tDCS repeatedly as the therapy goes on for days.

4)    As of 2021, tDCS is currently not FDA-approved for any treatment. This does not mean the FDA thinks it does not work, it just means the FDA has not reviewed it formally. This means to get tDCS in the US you need to be part of a clinical trial or receive off-label treatment.

5)    To understand if tDCS will work for stroke, you need to consider the nature of the stroke. How long ago it happened and what parts of the brain were affected. So when you review papers, remember to focus on the injury that is closest to what you want to treat. There have been plenty of tDCS clinical trials suggesting efficacy for things like upper extremity motor recovery and aphasia. Still, other studies found no extra benefit from tDCS but importantly tDCS did not make things worse. And what these clinical trials report on average (across everyone) may not reflect how individuals respond.

Bottom line: There is no evidence TDCS can make things work for individuals recovering from brain injury such as stroke, and any benefits reported in clinical trials will depend on the nature of the disease and individual response.


None of the above is medical advice and simply summarizes information publicly available in the clinical trials and other sources. If you or someone you love suffered from a stroke, talk to a doctor about the best options.


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