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Keywords:

  • motor contraction;
  • motor evoked potential;
  • transcranial direct current stimulation;
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

Abstract

Stimulation with weak electrical direct currents has been shown to be capable of inducing stimulation-polarity-dependent prolonged diminutions or elevations of cortical excitability, most probably elicited by a hyper- or depolarization of resting membrane potentials. The aim of the present study was to test if cognitive task and motor exercise practiced during the stimulation are able to modify transcranial direct current stimulation-induced plasticity in the left primary motor cortex in 12 healthy subjects. Motor evoked potentials were recorded before and after 10 min of anodal and cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation. In Experiment 1, subjects were required to sit passively during the stimulation, in Experiment 2 the subject's attention was directed towards a cognitive test and in Experiment 3 subjects were instructed to push a ball in their right hand. Both the cognitive task and motor exercise modified transcranial direct current stimulation-induced plasticity; when performing the cognitive task during stimulation the motor cortex excitability was lower after anodal stimulation and higher after cathodal stimulation, compared with the passive condition. When performing the motor exercise, the motor cortex excitability was lower after both anodal and cathodal stimulation, compared with the passive condition. Our results show that transcranial direct current stimulation-induced plasticity is highly dependent on the state of the subject during stimulation.