Metaplasticity in the human swallowing system: clinical implications for dysphagia rehabilitation

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Dysphagia is a common and devastating complication following brain damage. Over the last 2 decades, dysphagia treatments have shifted from compensatory to rehabilitative strategies that facilitate neuroplasticity, which is the reorganization of neural networks that is essential for functional recovery. Moreover, there is growing interest in the application of cortical and peripheral neurostimulation to promote such neuroplasticity. Despite some preliminary positive findings, the variability in responsiveness towards these treatments remains substantial. The purpose of this review is to summarise findings on the effects of neurostimulation in promoting neuroplasticity for dysphagia rehabilitation and highlight the need to develop more effective treatment strategies. We then discuss the role of metaplasticity, a homeostatic mechanism of the brain to regulate plasticity changes, in helping to drive neurorehabilitation. Finally, a hypothesis on how metaplasticity could be applied in dysphagia rehabilitation to enhance treatment outcomes is proposed.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2021