, Volume 185, Issue 2, pp 279-286

Short and long duration transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the human hand motor area

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Abstract

The aim of the present paper is to study effects of short and long duration transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on the human motor cortex. In eight normal volunteers, motor evoked potentials (MEPs) induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) were recorded from the right first dorsal interosseous muscle, and tDCS was given with electrodes over the left primary motor cortex (M1) and the contralateral orbit. We performed two experiments: one for short duration tDCS (100 ms, 1, 3 or 5 mA) and the other for long duration tDCS (10 min, 1 mA). The stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between the onset of tDCS and TMS were 1–7 and 10–120 ms for the former experiment. In the latter experiment, TMS was given 0–20 min after the end of 10 min tDCS. We evaluated the effect of tDCS on the motor cortex by comparing MEPs conditioned by tDCS with control MEPs. Cathodal short duration tDCS significantly reduced the size of responses to motor cortical stimulation at SOAs of 1–7 ms when the intensity was equal to or greater than 3 mA. Anodal short duration tDCS significantly increased MEPs when the intensity was 3 mA, but the enhancement did not occur when using 5 mA conditioning stimulus. Moreover, both anodal and cathodal short duration tDCS decreased responses to TMS significantly at SOAs of 20–50 ms and enhanced them at an SOA of 90 ms. Long duration cathodal tDCS decreased MEPs at 0 and 5 min after the offset of tDCS and anodal long duration tDCS increased them at 1 and 15 min. We conclude that the effect at SOAs less than 10 ms is mainly caused by acute changes in resting membrane potential induced by tDCS. The effect at SOAs of 20–100 ms is considered to be a nonspecific effect of a startle-like response produced by activation of skin sensation at the scalp. The effect provoked by long duration tDCS may be short-term potentiation or depression like effects.