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J Neurosci. 2011 Oct 26;31(43):15284-93. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0542-11.2011.

Prefrontal transcranial direct current stimulation changes connectivity of resting-state networks during fMRI.

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Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians University, 80333 Munich, Germany.


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been proposed for experimental and therapeutic modulation of regional brain function. Specifically, anodal tDCS of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) together with cathodal tDCS of the supraorbital region have been associated with improvement of cognition and mood, and have been suggested for the treatment of several neurological and psychiatric disorders. Although modeled mathematically, the distribution, direction, and extent of tDCS-mediated effects on brain physiology are not well understood. The current study investigates whether tDCS of the human prefrontal cortex modulates resting-state network (RSN) connectivity measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Thirteen healthy subjects underwent real and sham tDCS in random order on separate days. tDCS was applied for 20 min at 2 mA with the anode positioned over the left DLPFC and the cathode over the right supraorbital region. Patterns of resting-state brain connectivity were assessed before and after tDCS with 3 T fMRI, and changes were analyzed for relevant networks related to the stimulation-electrode localizations. At baseline, four RSNs were detected, corresponding to the default mode network (DMN), the left and right frontal-parietal networks (FPNs) and the self-referential network. After real tDCS and compared with sham tDCS, significant changes of regional brain connectivity were found for the DMN and the FPNs both close to the primary stimulation site and in connected brain regions. These findings show that prefrontal tDCS modulates resting-state functional connectivity in distinct functional networks of the human brain.

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