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Neurosci Lett. 2011 Jun 15;497(1):32-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2011.04.019. Epub 2011 Apr 17.

Transcranial direct current stimulation influences the cardiac autonomic nervous control.

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Research Group of Integrative Biology of Exercise (GEPEBIEX), Physical Education Department, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil.


To investigate whether the manipulation of brain excitability by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) modulates the heart rate variability (HRV), the effect of tDCS applied at rest on the left temporal lobe in athletes (AG) and non-athletes (NAG) was evaluated. The HRV parameters (natural logarithms of LF, HF, and LF/HF) was assessed in 20 healthy men before, and immediately after tDCS and sham stimulation. After anodal tDCS in AG the parasympathetic activity (HF(log)) increased (P<0.01) and the sympathetic activity (LF(log)) and sympatho-vagal balance (LF/HF(log)) decreased (P<0.01), whereas no significant effects were detected in NAG (P>0.05). No significant changes in HRV indexes were provoked by sham stimulation in both AG and NAG (P>0.05). In conclusion, tDCS applied on the left temporal lobe significantly increased the overall HRV in AG, enhancing the parasympathetic and decreasing the sympathetic modulation of heart rate. Consequently the sympatho-vagal balance decreased at rest in AG but not in NAG. Releasing a weak electric current to stimulate selected brain areas may induce favorable effects on the autonomic control to the heart in highly fit subjects.

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