Transcranial direct current stimulation affects visual perception measured by threshold perimetry

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Dec;207(3-4):283-90. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2453-6. Epub 2010 Nov 3.


In this study, we aimed to characterize the effect of anodal and cathodal direct current stimulation (tDCS) on contrast sensitivity inside the central 10 degrees of the visual field in healthy subjects. Distinct eccentricities were investigated separately, since at the cortical level, more central regions of the visual field are represented closer to the occipital pole, i.e. closer to the polarizing electrodes, than are the more peripheral regions. Using a double-blind and sham-controlled within-subject design, we measured the effect of stimulation and potential learning effect separately across testing days. Anodal stimulation of the visual cortex compared to sham stimulation yielded a significant increase in contrast sensitivity within 8° of the visual field. A significant increase in contrast sensitivity between the conditions "pre" and "post" anodal stimulation was only obtained for the central positions at eccentricities smaller than 2°. Cathodal stimulation of the visual cortex did not affect contrast sensitivity at either eccentricity. Perceptual learning across testing days was only observed for threshold perimetry before stimulation. Measuring contrast sensitivity changes after tDCS with a standard clinical tool such as threshold perimetry may provide an interesting perspective in assessing therapeutic effects of tDCS in ophthalmological or neurological defects (e.g. with foveal sparing vs. foveal splitting).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*