Transcriptomic Modification in the Cerebral Cortex following Noninvasive Brain Stimulation: RNA-Sequencing Approach

Neural Plast. 2016;2016:5942980. doi: 10.1155/2016/5942980. Epub 2016 Dec 29.


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to modulate neuroplasticity. Beneficial effects are observed in patients with psychiatric disorders and enhancement of brain performance in healthy individuals has been observed following tDCS. However, few studies have attempted to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms of tDCS in the brain. This study was conducted to assess the impact of tDCS on gene expression within the rat cerebral cortex. Anodal tDCS was applied at 3 different intensities followed by RNA-sequencing and analysis. In each current intensity, approximately 1,000 genes demonstrated statistically significant differences compared to the sham group. A variety of functional pathways, biological processes, and molecular categories were found to be modified by tDCS. The impact of tDCS on gene expression was dependent on current intensity. Results show that inflammatory pathways, antidepressant-related pathways (GTP signaling, calcium ion binding, and transmembrane/signal peptide pathways), and receptor signaling pathways (serotonergic, adrenergic, GABAergic, dopaminergic, and glutamate) were most affected. Of the gene expression profiles induced by tDCS, some changes were observed across multiple current intensities while other changes were unique to a single stimulation intensity. This study demonstrates that tDCS can modify the expression profile of various genes in the cerebral cortex and that these tDCS-induced alterations are dependent on the current intensity applied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA / methods*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*
  • Transcriptome / physiology*