The effects of prolonged cathodal direct current stimulation on the excitatory and inhibitory circuits of the ipsilateral and contralateral motor cortex

V Di Lazzaro, F Manganelli, M Dileone, F Notturno, M Esposito, M Capasso, R Dubbioso, M Pace, F Ranieri, G Minicuci, L Santoro, A Uncini
Journal of Neural Transmission 2012, 119 (12): 1499-506
Weak cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the human hand area modulates corticospinal excitability with a suppression of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The changes in excitability persist beyond the time of stimulation if tDCS is given for several minutes and can remain stable for an hour or more. The aim of present study was to evaluate whether a long-lasting suppression of cortical excitability could be induced by prolonged cathodal tDCS (20 min of stimulation). We also explored the impact of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene polymorphisms, on tDCS after-effects. Cortical excitability to single and paired-pulse TMS was evaluated both for the stimulated and contralateral hemisphere, before and up to 24 h after 20 min of cathodal tDCS. We evaluated threshold and amplitude of MEPs, short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI), and intracortical facilitation (ICF). tDCS produced a pronounced suppression of MEP amplitude that was still significant at 3 h after the end of stimulation. The BDNF genotype had not influence on tDCS after-effects. Thresholds for MEPs, SICI and ICF were not affected. No significant effect was observed in the contralateral hemisphere. Twenty minutes of cathodal tDCS is capable of inducing a long-lasting suppression of the excitability of the human motor cortex.

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