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Keywords:

  • brain damage;
  • cathodal tDCS;
  • non-invasive neurostimulation;
  • posterior parietal cortex;
  • visuospatial attention and orienting;
  • visuo-spatial neglect

Abstract

Damage to cerebral systems is frequently followed by the emergence of compensatory mechanisms, which serve to reduce the effects of brain damage and allow recovery of function. Intrinsic recovery, however, is rarely complete. Non-invasive brain stimulation technologies have the potential to actively shape neural circuits and enhance recovery from brain damage. In this study, a stable deficit for detecting and orienting to visual stimuli presented in the contralesional visual hemifield was generated by producing unilateral brain damage of the right posterior parietal and contiguous visual cortical areas. A long regimen of inhibitory non-invasive transcranial direct-current stimulation (cathodal tDCS, 2 mA, 20 min) was applied to the contralateral (intact) posterior parietal cortex over 14 weeks (total of 70 sessions, one per day, 5 days per week) and behavioral outcomes were periodically assessed. In three out of four stimulated cats, lasting recovery of visuospatial function was observed. Recovery started after 2–3 weeks of stimulation, and recovered targets were located first in the periphery, and moved to more central visual field locations with the accrual of stimulation sessions. Recovery for moving tasks followed a biphasic pattern before reaching plateau levels. Recovery did not occur for more difficult visual tasks. These findings highlight the ability of multiple sessions of transcranial direct-current stimulation to produce recovery of visuospatial function after unilateral brain damage.