Selective Functional Network Changes Following tDCS-Augmented Language Treatment in Primary Progressive Aphasia

Yuan Tao, Bronte Ficek, Zeyi Wang, Brenda Rapp, Kyrana Tsapkini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has shown promising results when used as an adjunct to behavioral training in neurodegenerative diseases. However, the underlying neural mechanisms are not understood and neuroimaging evidence from pre/post treatment has been sparse. In this study, we examined tDCS-induced neural changes in a language intervention study for primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a neurodegenerative syndrome with language impairment as the primary clinical presentation. Anodal tDCS was applied to the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). To evaluate the hypothesis that tDCS promotes system segregation, analysis focused on understanding tDCS-induced changes in the brain-wide functional network connectivity of the targeted LIFG. Methods: Resting-state fMRI data were obtained from 32 participants with PPA before and after receiving a written naming therapy, accompanied either by tDCS or sham stimulation. We focused on evaluating changes in the global connectivity of the stimulated LIFG-triangularis (LIFG-tri) region given its important role in lexical processing. Global connectivity was indexed by the graph-theoretic measure participation coefficient (PC) which quantifies a region’s level of system segregation. The values before and after treatment were compared for each condition (tDCS or Sham) as well as with age-matched healthy controls (n = 19). Results: Higher global connectivity of the LIFG-tri before treatment was associated with greater dementia severity. After treatment, the tDCS group showed a significant decrease in global connectivity whereas the Sham group’s did not change, suggesting specific neural effects induced by tDCS. Further examination revealed that the decrease was driven by reduced connectivity between the LIFG-tri and regions outside the perisylvian language area, consistent with the hypothesis that tDCS enhances the segregation of the language system and improves processing efficiency. Additionally, we found that these effects were specific to the LIFG-tri and not observed in other control regions. Conclusion: TDCS-augmented language therapy in PPA increased the functional segregation of the language system, a normalization of the hyper-connectivity observed before treatment. These findings add to our understanding of the nature of tDCS-induced neural changes in disease treatment and have applications for validating treatment efficacy and designing future tDCS and other non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number681043
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 12 2021


  • fronto-temporal dementia
  • network analysis
  • primary progressive aphasia
  • resting state – fMRI
  • transcranial direct current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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