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Exp Brain Res. 2007 Sep;182(2):281-7. Epub 2007 Aug 24.

Effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on the excitability of the leg motor cortex.

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Centre for Neuroscience and Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the human motor cortex at an intensity of 1 mA has been shown to be efficacious in increasing (via anodal tDCS) or decreasing (via cathodal tDCS) the excitability of corticospinal projections to muscles of the hand. In this study, we examined whether tDCS at currents of 2 mA could effect similar changes in the excitability of deeper cortical structures that innervate muscles of the lower leg. Similar to the hand area, 10 min of stimulation with the anode over the leg area of the motor cortex increased the excitability of corticospinal tract projections to the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle, as reflected by an increase in the amplitude of the motor evoked potentials (MEPs) evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation. MEP amplitudes recorded at rest and during a background contraction were increased following anodal tDCS and remained elevated at 60 min compared to baseline values by 59 and 35%, respectively. However, in contrast to the hand, hyperpolarizing cathodal stimulation at equivalent currents had minimal effect on the amplitude of the MEPs recorded at rest or during background contraction of the TA muscle. These results suggest that it is more difficult to suppress the excitability of the leg motor cortex with cathodal tDCS than the hand area of the motor cortex.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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