Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Pediatric Motor Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Ghazala T. Saleem, Jewel E. Crasta, Beth S. Slomine, Gabriela Lucila Cantarero, Stacy J. Suskauer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: To systematically examine the safety and effectiveness of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) interventions in pediatric motor disorders. Data Sources: PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, CINAHL, Web of Science, and ProQuest databases were searched from inception to August 2018. Study Selection: tDCS randomized controlled trials (RCTs), observational studies, conference proceedings, and dissertations in pediatric motor disorders were included. Two authors independently screened articles based on predefined inclusion criteria. Data Extraction: Data related to participant demographics, intervention, and outcomes were extracted by 2 authors. Quality assessment was independently performed by 2 authors. Data Synthesis: A total of 23 studies involving a total of 391 participants were included. There was no difference in dropout rates between active (1 of 144) and sham (1 of 144) tDCS groups, risk difference 0.0, 95% confidence interval (−.05 to.04). Across studies, the most common adverse effects in the active group were tingling (17.2%), discomfort (8.02%), itching (6.79%), and skin redness (4%). Across 3 studies in children with cerebral palsy, tDCS significantly improved gait velocity (MD=.23; 95% confidence interval [0.13-0.34]; P<.0005), stride length (MD=0.10; 95% confidence interval [0.05-0.15]; P<.0005), and cadence (MD=15.7; 95% confidence interval [9.72-21.68]; P<.0005). Mixed effects were found on balance, upper extremity function, and overflow movements in dystonia. Conclusion: Based on the studies reviewed, tDCS is a safe technique in pediatric motor disorders and may improve some gait measures and involuntary movements. Research to date in pediatric motor disorders shows limited effectiveness in improving balance and upper extremity function. tDCS may serve as a potential adjunct to pediatric rehabilitation; to better understand if tDCS is beneficial for pediatric motor disorders, more well-designed RCTs are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-738
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Children
  • Motor disorders
  • Rehabilitation
  • Review
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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