Background: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) induces long-lasting NMDA receptor-dependent cortical plasticity via persistent subthreshold polarization of neuronal membranes. Conventional bipolar tDCS is applied with two large (35 cm(2)) rectangular electrodes, resulting in directional modulation of neuronal excitability. Recently a newly designed 4 × 1 high-definition (HD) tDCS protocol was proposed for more focal stimulation according to the results of computational modeling. HD tDCS utilizes small disc electrodes deployed in 4 × 1 ring configuration whereby the physiological effects of the induced electric field are thought to be grossly constrained to the cortical area circumscribed by the ring.
Objective: We aim to compare the physiological effects of both tDCS electrode arrangements on motor cortex excitability.
Methods: tDCS was applied with 2 mA for 10 min. Fourteen healthy subjects participated, and motor cortex excitability was monitored by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) before and after tDCS.
Results: Excitability enhancement following anodal and a respective reduction after cathodal stimulation occurred in both, conventional and HD tDCS. However, the plastic changes showed a more delayed peak at 30 min and longer lasting after-effects for more than 2 h after HD tDCS for both polarities, as compared to conventional tDCS.
Conclusion: The results show that this new electrode arrangement is efficient for the induction of neuroplasticity in the primary motor cortex. The pattern of aftereffects might be compatible with the concept of GABA-mediated surround inhibition, which should be explored in future studies directly.
Keywords: High definition tDCS; Human; Motor cortex; Plasticity; Transcranial direct current stimulation.
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