Lang N, Nitsche MA, Paulus W, Rothwell JC, Lemon RN. Effects of transcranial direct current stimulation over human motor cortex on corticospinal and transcallosal excitability. Exp Brain Res 156: 439-443
Weak transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can induce long lasting changes in cortical excitability. In the present study we asked whether tDCS applied to the left primary motor cortex (M1) also produces aftereffects distant from the site of the stimulating electrodes. We therefore tested corticospinal excitability in the left and the right M1 and transcallosal excitability between the two cortices using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) before and after applying tDCS. Eight healthy subjects received 10 min of anodal or cathodal tDCS (1 mA) to the left M1. We examined the amplitude of contralateral motor evoked potentials (MEPs) and the onset latency and duration of transcallosal inhibition with single pulse TMS. MEPs evoked from the tDCS stimulated (left) M1 were increased by 32% after anodal and decreased by 27% after cathodal tDCS, while transcallosal inhibition evoked from the left M1 remained unchanged. The effect on MEPs evoked from the left M1 lasted longer for cathodal than for anodal tDCS. MEPs evoked from the right M1 were unchanged whilst the duration of transcallosal inhibition evoked from the right M1 was shortened after cathodal tDCS and prolonged after anodal tDCS. The duration of transcallosal inhibition returned to control values before the effect on the MEPs from the left M1 had recovered. These findings are compatible with the idea that tDCS-induced aftereffects in the cortical motor system are limited to the stimulated hemisphere, and that tDCS not only affects corticospinal circuits involved in producing MEPs but also inhibitory interneurons mediating transcallosal inhibition from the contralateral hemisphere.
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