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Keywords:

  • Aphasia;
  • dysarthria;
  • dysphagia;
  • language;
  • motor speech;
  • repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation;
  • swallowing;
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

Recent years have seen the introduction of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques (e.g. transcranial direct current stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation) utilized to target neural-based pathologies, for therapeutic gain. The direct manipulation of cortical brain activity by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) could potentially serve as an efficacious complimentary rehabilitatory treatment for speech, language and swallowing disorders of a neurological origin. The high prevalence of positive reports on communication and swallowing outcomes support these premises. Nonetheless, experimental evidence to date in some areas is considered rudimentary and is deficient in providing placebo-controlled substantiation of longitudinal neuroplastic change subsequent to stimulation. The most affirmative therapeutic responses have arisen from small placebo-controlled trials using low-frequency rTMS for patients with non-fluent aphasia and high-frequency rTMS applied to individuals with Parkinson's disease to improve motor speech performance and outcomes. Preliminary studies applying rTMS to ameliorate dysphagic symptoms post-stroke provide positive swallowing outcomes for patients. Further research into the optimization of rTMS protocols, including dosage, stimulation targets for maximal efficacy and placebo techniques, is critically needed to provide a fundamental basis for clinical interventions using this technique. rTMS represents a highly promising and clinically relevant technique, warranting the future development of clinical trials across a spectrum of communication and swallowing pathologies, to substantiate and expand on the methods outlined in published reports.