The Efficacy and Safety of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation for Cerebellar Ataxia: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Tiffany X. Chen, Chen Ya Yang, Gloria Willson, Chih Chun Lin, Sheng Han Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A promising new approach, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has recently been used as a therapeutic modality for cerebellar ataxia. However, the strength of the conclusions drawn from individual studies in the current literature may be constrained by the small sample size of each trial. Following a systematic literature retrieval of studies, meta-analyses were conducted by pooling the standardized mean differences (SMDs) using random-effects models to assess the efficacy of tDCS on cerebellar ataxia, measured by standard clinical rating scales. Domain-specific effects of tDCS on gait and hand function were further evaluated based on 8-m walk and 9-hole peg test performance times, respectively. To determine the safety of tDCS, the incidences of adverse effects were analyzed using risk differences. Out of 293 citations, 5 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 72 participants with cerebellar ataxia were included. Meta-analysis indicated a 26.1% (p = 0.003) improvement in ataxia immediately after tDCS with sustained efficacy over months (28.2% improvement after 3 months, p = 0.04) when compared with sham stimulation. tDCS seems to be domain-specific as the current analysis suggested a positive effect on gait (16.3% improvement, p = 0.04) and failed to reveal differences for hand function (p = 0.10) with respect to sham. The incidence of adverse events in tDCS and sham groups was similar. tDCS is an effective intervention for mitigating ataxia symptoms with lasting results that can be sustained for months. This treatment shows preferential effects on gait ataxia and is relatively safe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-133
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Ataxia
  • Cerebellum
  • Electric stimulation
  • Gait
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation


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