Expanding the parameter space of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of the primary motor cortex

Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 3;9(1):18185. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54621-0.


Size and duration of the neuroplastic effects of tDCS depend on stimulation parameters, including stimulation duration and intensity of current. The impact of stimulation parameters on physiological effects is partially non-linear. To improve the utility of this intervention, it is critical to gather information about the impact of stimulation duration and intensity on neuroplasticity, while expanding the parameter space to improve efficacy. Anodal tDCS of 1-3 mA current intensity was applied for 15-30 minutes to study motor cortex plasticity. Sixteen healthy right-handed non-smoking volunteers participated in 10 sessions (intensity-duration pairs) of stimulation in a randomized cross-over design. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-induced motor-evoked potentials (MEP) were recorded as outcome measures of tDCS effects until next evening after tDCS. All active stimulation conditions enhanced motor cortex excitability within the first 2 hours after stimulation. We observed no significant differences between the three stimulation intensities and durations on cortical excitability. A trend for larger cortical excitability enhancements was however observed for higher current intensities (1 vs 3 mA). These results add information about intensified tDCS protocols and suggest that the impact of anodal tDCS on neuroplasticity is relatively robust with respect to gradual alterations of stimulation intensity, and duration.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cortical Excitability / physiology*
  • Electrodes
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods