Background: Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (A-tDCS) induces a long-lasting increase in cortical excitability that can increase gene transcription in the brain.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the expression of genes related to activity-dependent neuronal plasticity in the sensorimotor cortex and hippocampus of young Sprague-Dawley rats following A-tDCS.
Methods: We applied A-tDCS over the right sensorimotor cortex epicranially with a circular electrode (3 mm diameter) at 250 μA for 20 min per day for 7 consecutive days. Levels of mRNA for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), synapsin I, Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc), and c-Fos were analyzed using SYBR Green quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Results: We found that 7 days of unilateral A-tDCS resulted in significant increases in transcription of all plasticity-related genes tested in the ipsilateral cortex. Daily A-tDCS also resulted in a significant increase in c-Fos mRNA in the ipsilateral hippocampus.
Conclusion: These results indicate that altered expression of plasticity-associated genes in the cortex and hippocampus is a molecular substrate of A-tDCS-induced neural plasticity.
Keywords: Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation; immediate-early genes; somatosensory cortex; synaptic plasticity-related genes.