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Neurophysiological Adaptation and Neuromodulatory Treatment Approaches in Patients Suffering from Post-stroke Dysphagia

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Purpose of Review

This review gives an outline of the current state of knowledge on swallowing-related neurophysiology, neuroplasticity mechanisms following dysphagic stroke and neuromodulatory treatment approaches to enhance recovery processes for faster and better rehabilitation of post-stroke dysphagia.

Recent Findings

A widely distributed network including bilateral cortical and subcortical as well as medullary structures is involved in the act of swallowing. Distinct brain areas are related to specific aspects of swallowing control. Stroke lesions in these areas may lead to post-stroke dysphagia. Compensatory reorganization takes place mainly in the contralesional hemisphere making this a promising target of central neuromodulatory treatment approaches. Also, the peripheral pharyngeal electrical stimulation has shown to promote functional neuronal reorganization for clinical improvement of swallowing function.


With promising results from recent studies—at least in distinct stroke patient collectives—central and peripheral neuromodulatory interventions seem to be at the threshold to implementation in clinical practice.

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Intensive care unit


Paired associative stimulation


Pharyngeal electrical stimulation


Post-stroke dysphagia


Substance P


Transcranial direct current stimulation


Transcranial magnetic stimulation


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Correspondence to Paul Muhle.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Swallowing Disorders

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Muhle, P., Suntrup-Krueger, S. & Dziewas, R. Neurophysiological Adaptation and Neuromodulatory Treatment Approaches in Patients Suffering from Post-stroke Dysphagia. Curr Phys Med Rehabil Rep 6, 227–238 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40141-018-0201-1

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  • Dysphagia
  • Stroke
  • Post-stroke dysphagia
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neurostimulation
  • Swallowing