Background:

Exercise has been demonstrated to be safe and well-tolerated in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). Physical activity has been shown to enhance the therapeutic effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). This study aimed to determine the efficacy of intermittent tDCS combined with riding a stationary bicycle to improve walking capacity in individuals with MS.

Methods:

This double-blind randomized controlled trial enrolled 50 eligible participants. Thirty-nine participants completed the study: 21 in the active group and 18 in the control group. Participants were assigned randomly to exercise on a stationary bike in conjunction with anodal tDCS or to exercise combined with a sham tDCS protocol. Walking capacity tests (2-Minute Walk Test, 5-Meter Walk Test, Timed Up and Go test), manual muscle testing, the Fatigue Severity Scale, and the Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life–54 were used to determine outcomes.

Results:

In terms of observed changes in 2-Minute Walk Test and 5-Meter Walk Test values, the exercise + tDCS group achieved significantly higher posttreatment values than the exercise + sham tDCS group. After the intervention and 1 month later, the intervention group's mean Timed Up and Go test value decreased significantly (P = .002) compared with that of the control group. There was no difference in Fatigue Severity Scale score, Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life–54 score, or manual muscle testing improvement between the 2 groups.

Conclusions:

Nonconsecutive sessions of anodal tDCS combined with stationary cycling may have a greater effect on the walking capacity of individuals with MS than exercise alone.

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