Background: Dysphagia in the elderly, known as presbydysphagia, has become a relevant public health problem in several countries. Swallowing disorders may be a consequence of different neurological disorders (secondary presbydysphagia) or the expression of the aging process itself (primary presbydysphagia). We aimed to test the therapeutic potential of two different non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques in subjects with primary or secondary presbydysphagia. Methods: A blinded randomized controlled trial with crossover design was carried out in 42 patients, randomly assigned to anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) or intermittent theta-burst stimulation (TBS) group. Both tDCS and TBS were applied for 5 consecutive days over the right swallowing motor cortex. The swallowing function was assessed before and 1 and 3 months after the stimulation using the Dysphagia Outcome and Severity Scale (DOSS), scored based on clinical assessment and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing. An electrophysiological method was also applied to evaluate changes in the reproducibility of the swallowing behavior. Key Results: Both real tDCS and TBS had beneficial effects on the swallowing function in patients with primary and secondary presbydysphagia. Anodal tDCS resulted in an improvement of 0.5 points in DOSS at 1-month follow-up (P =.014), whereas intermittent TBS induced an increase of 0.7 and 0.6 points at 1- and 3-month follow-up evaluations, respectively (P =.0001 and P =.005, respectively). Reproducibility of both the oral and pharyngeal phases of swallowing significantly increased at 1-month follow-up. Conclusions and Inferences: Our results suggest that non-invasive cortical stimulation may be useful for dysphagia recovery in elderly patients.
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