Prefrontal cortex rTMS enhances action naming in progressive non-fluent aphasia

M. Cotelli, R. Manenti, A. Alberici, M. Brambilla, M. Cosseddu, O. Zanetti, A. Miozzo, A. Padovani, C. Miniussi, B. Borroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and purpose: Progressive non-fluent aphasia (PNFA) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by non-fluent speech with naming impairment and grammatical errors. It has been recently demonstrated that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) improves action naming in healthy subjects and in subjects with Alzheimer's disease. Purpose: To investigate whether the modulation of DLPFC circuits by rTMS modifies naming performance in patients with PNFA. Methods: Ten patients with a diagnosis of PNFA were enrolled. High-frequency rTMS was applied to the left and right DLPFC and the sham (i.e. placebo) condition during object and action naming. A subgroup of patients with semantic dementia was enrolled as a comparison group. Results: A repeated-measure anova with stimulus site (sham, left and right rTMS) showed significant effects. Action-naming performances during stimulation of both the left and right DLPFC were better than during placebo stimulation. No facilitating effect of rTMS to the DLPFC on object naming was observed. In patients with a diagnosis of semantic dementia, no effect of stimulation was reported. Conclusions: Our study demonstrated that rTMS improved action naming in subjects with PNFA, possibly due to the modulation of DLPFC pathways and a facilitation effect on lexical retrieval processes. Future studies on the potential of a rehabilitative protocol using rTMS applied to the DLPFC in this orphan disorder are required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1404-1412
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Language
  • Non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Progressive non-fluent aphasia
  • Semantic dementia
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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