Excitability changes induced in the human motor cortex by weak transcranial direct current stimulation

Authors

  • M. A. Nitsche,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, University of Goettingen, Robert Koch Strasse 40, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
    • Correspondence
      M. A. Nitsche and W. Paulus: Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, University of Goettingen, Robert Koch Strasse 40, 37075 Goettingen, Germany.

    Search for more papers by this author
  • W. Paulus

    1. Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, University of Goettingen, Robert Koch Strasse 40, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

  • 1In this paper we demonstrate in the intact human the possibility of a non-invasive modulation of motor cortex excitability by the application of weak direct current through the scalp.
  • 2Excitability changes of up to 40 %, revealed by transcranial magnetic stimulation, were accomplished and lasted for several minutes after the end of current stimulation.
  • 3Excitation could be achieved selectively by anodal stimulation, and inhibition by cathodal stimulation.
  • 4By varying the current intensity and duration, the strength and duration of the after-effects could be controlled.
  • 5The effects were probably induced by modification of membrane polarisation. Functional alterations related to post-tetanic potentiation, short-term potentiation and processes similar to postexcitatory central inhibition are the likely candidates for the excitability changes after the end of stimulation. Transcranial electrical stimulation using weak current may thus be a promising tool to modulate cerebral excitability in a non-invasive, painless, reversible, selective and focal way.

Ancillary