Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Medical Biophysics


Bartha, Robert

2nd Supervisor

Duggal, Neil


The goal of this thesis was to determine the cortical reorganization that occurs in patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) after surgical decompression and to implement this knowledge into a new rehabilitation strategy. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive technique to modulate human behavior. Due to the novel electrode montage used, it was first pertinent that we determine how tDCS would modulate cortical, metabolic and motor behavior in healthy individuals.

We observed the longitudinal functional adaptations that occur in patients with CSM using functional MRI. Enhanced excitation of supplementary motor area (SMA) was observed following surgical decompression and associated with increased function following surgery. This novel finding of enhanced excitation of motivated us to use a bihemispheric tDCS protocol, exciting bilateral motor areas to provide optimal motor enhancement. This novel tDCS electrode montage, targeting the SMA and primary motor cortex (M1) was implemented in healthy older adults to determine its effects on enhancing manual dexterity. Furthermore, to determine the frequency with which to apply tDCS, a single and tri session protocol was used. We observed a differential pattern of action with anti-phase and in-phase motor tasks during multisession tDCS. We used ultra-high field (7T) MRI to examined the metabolic changes that occur following tDCS. After the stimulation period we observed no significant metabolite modulation. A trend towards an increase in the NAA/tCr ratio, with a concomitant decrease in the absolute concentration of tCr was observed. Finally, we examined the functional connectivity before, during and after tDCS with the use of resting-state fMRI at 7T. We observed enhanced connectivity within right sensorimotor area after stimulation compared to during stimulation. This result confirmed that cortical modulations differ during versus after tDCS, signifying that optimal modulation of behaviour may be after the stimulation period. Furthermore, we observed an enhanced correlation between motor regions and the caudate, both during and after stimulation.

In conclusion, we observed novel cortical adaptations in CSM patients after surgical decompression, which led us to believe that bihemispheric tDCS of M1-SMA network would result in optimal motor enhancement and warrants further investigation in CSM and other neurological disorders.