The primary aim of this review is to evaluate the effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (a-tDCS) on corticomotor excitability and motor function in healthy individuals and subjects with stroke. The secondary aim is to find a-tDCS optimal parameters for its maximal effects. Electronic databases were searched for studies into the effect of a-tDCS when compared to no stimulation. Studies which met the inclusion criteria were assessed and methodological quality was examined using PEDro and Downs and Black (D&B) assessment tools. Data from seven studies revealed increase in corticomotor excitability with a small but significant effect size (0.31 [0.14, 0.48], p=0.0003) in healthy subjects and data from two studies in subjects with stroke indicated significant results with moderate effect size (0.59 [0.24, 0.93], p=0.001) in favor of a-tDCS. Likewise, studies examining motor function demonstrated a small and non-significant effect (0.39 [-0.17, 0.94], p=0.17) in subjects with stroke and a large but non-significant effect (0.92 [-1.02, 2.87], p=0.35) in healthy subjects in favor of improvement in motor function. The results also indicate that efficacy of a-tDCS is dependent on current density and duration of application. A-tDCS increases corticomotor excitability in both healthy individuals and subjects with stroke. The results also show a trend in favor of motor function improvement following a-tDCS. A-tDCS is a non-invasive, cheap and easy-to-apply modality which could be used as a stand-alone technique or as an adds-on technique to enhance corticomotor excitability and the efficacy of motor training approaches. However, the small sample size of the included studies reduces the strength of the presented evidences and any conclusion in this regard should be considered cautiously.
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