Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 6, pp 1651–1663 | Cite as

Adaptive threshold hunting for the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on primary motor cortex inhibition

  • Ronan A. Mooney
  • John Cirillo
  • Winston D. Byblow
Research Article


Primary motor cortex excitability can be modulated by anodal and cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). These neuromodulatory effects may, in part, be dependent on modulation within gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-mediated inhibitory networks. GABAergic function can be quantified non-invasively using adaptive threshold hunting paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The previous studies have used TMS with posterior–anterior (PA) induced current to assess tDCS effects on inhibition. However, TMS with anterior–posterior (AP) induced current in the brain provides a more robust measure of GABA-mediated inhibition. The aim of the present study was to assess the modulation of corticomotor excitability and inhibition after anodal and cathodal tDCS using TMS with PA- and AP-induced current. In 16 young adults (26 ± 1 years), we investigated the response to anodal, cathodal, and sham tDCS in a repeated-measures double-blinded crossover design. Adaptive threshold hunting paired-pulse TMS with PA- and AP-induced current was used to examine separate interneuronal populations within M1 and their influence on corticomotor excitability and short- and long-interval inhibition (SICI and LICI) for up to 60 min after tDCS. Unexpectedly, cathodal tDCS increased corticomotor excitability assessed with AP (P = 0.047) but not PA stimulation (P = 0.74). SICIAP was reduced after anodal tDCS compared with sham (P = 0.040). Pearson’s correlations indicated that SICIAP and LICIAP modulation was associated with corticomotor excitability after anodal (P = 0.027) and cathodal tDCS (P = 0.042). The after-effects of tDCS on corticomotor excitability may depend on the direction of the TMS-induced current used to make assessments, and on modulation within GABA-mediated inhibitory circuits.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation Transcranial direct current stimulation Adaptive threshold hunting Intracortical inhibition Current direction 



We thank April Ren for the assistance with data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronan A. Mooney
    • 1
  • John Cirillo
    • 1
  • Winston D. Byblow
    • 1
  1. 1.Movement Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Exercise Sciences, Centre for Brain ResearchThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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