In this study we aimed to determine current distribution and short-term analgesic effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in fibromyalgia using different electrode montages. For each electrode montage, clinical effects were correlated with predictions of induced cortical current flow using magnetic resonance imaging-derived finite element method head model. Thirty patients were randomized into 5 groups (Cathodal-M1 [primary motor cortex], Cathodal-SO [supra-orbital area], Anodal-M1, Anodal-SO, and Sham) to receive tDCS application (2 mA, 20 minutes) using an extracephalic montage. Pain was measured using a visual numerical scale (VNS), pressure pain threshold (PPT), and a body diagram (BD) evaluating pain area. There was significant pain reduction in cathodal-SO and anodal-SO groups indexed by VNS. For PPT there was a trend for a similar effect in anodal-SO group. Computer simulation indicated that the M1-extracephalic montage produced dominantly temporo-parietal current flow, consistent with lack of clinical effects with this montage. Conversely, the SO-extracephalic montage produced current flow across anterior prefrontal structures, thus supporting the observed analgesic effects. Our clinical and modeling findings suggest that electrode montage, considering both electrodes, is critical for the clinical effects of M1-tDCS as electric current needs to be induced in areas associated with the pain matrix. These results should be taken into consideration for the design of pain tDCS studies.
Perspective: Results in this article support that electrode montage is a critical factor to consider for the clinical application of tDCS for pain control, as there is an important correlation between the location of induced electrical current and tDCS-induced analgesic effects.
Copyright © 2011 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.