Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 10, pp 3243–3252 | Cite as

Anodal-tDCS applied during unilateral strength training increases strength and corticospinal excitability in the untrained homologous muscle

  • Ashlee M. Hendy
  • Dawson J. KidgellEmail author
Research Article


Evidence suggests that the cross-transfer of strength following unilateral training may be modulated by increased corticospinal excitability of the ipsilateral primary motor cortex, due to cross-activation. Anodal-tDCS (a-tDCS) has been shown to acutely increase corticospinal excitability and motor performance, which may enhance this process. Therefore, we sought to examine changes in neural activation and strength of the untrained limb following the application of a-tDCS during a single unilateral strength training session. Ten participants underwent three conditions in a randomized, double-blinded crossover design: (1) strength training + a-tDCS, (2) strength training + sham-tDCS and (3) a-tDCS alone. a-tDCS was applied for 20 min at 2 mA over the right motor cortex. Unilateral strength training of the right wrist involved 4 × 6 wrist extensions at 70 % of maximum. Outcome measures included maximal voluntary strength, corticospinal excitability, short-interval intracortical inhibition, and cross-activation. We observed a significant increase in strength of the untrained wrist (5.27 %), a decrease in short-interval intracortical inhibition (−13.49 %), and an increase in cross-activation (15.71 %) when strength training was performed with a-tDCS, but not following strength training with sham-tDCS, or tDCS alone. Corticospinal excitability of the untrained wrist increased significantly following both strength training with a-tDCS (17.29 %), and a-tDCS alone (15.15 %), but not following strength training with sham-tDCS. These findings suggest that a single session of a-tDCS combined with unilateral strength training of the right limb increases maximal strength and cross-activation to the contralateral untrained limb.


tDCS Cross-activation Strength Cross-transfer Corticospinal excitability 



D.J. Kidgell is supported by an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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