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Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Jul 1;7:333. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00333. eCollection 2013.

Task-specific effect of transcranial direct current stimulation on motor learning.

Author information

1
KU Leuven, Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Research Center for Movement Control and Neuroplasticity , Heverlee , Belgium.

Abstract

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a relatively new non-invasive brain stimulation technique that modulates neural processes. When applied to the human primary motor cortex (M1), tDCS has beneficial effects on motor skill learning and consolidation in healthy controls and in patients. However, it remains unclear whether tDCS improves motor learning in a general manner or whether these effects depend on which motor task is acquired. Here we compare whether the effect of tDCS differs when the same individual acquires (1) a Sequential Finger Tapping Task (SEQTAP) and (2) a Visual Isometric Pinch Force Task (FORCE). Both tasks have been shown to be sensitive to tDCS applied over M1, however, the underlying processes mediating learning and memory formation might benefit differently from anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (anodal-tDCS). Thirty healthy subjects were randomly assigned to an anodal-tDCS group or sham-group. Using a double-blind, sham-controlled cross-over design, tDCS was applied over M1 while subjects acquired each of the motor tasks over three consecutive days, with the order being randomized across subjects. We found that anodal-tDCS affected each task differently: the SEQTAP task benefited from anodal-tDCS during learning, whereas the FORCE task showed improvements only at retention. These findings suggest that anodal-tDCS applied over M1 appears to have a task-dependent effect on learning and memory formation.

KEYWORDS:

consolidation; corticospinal excitability; motor learning; neuromodulation; primary motor cortex; tDCS

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