Cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation modulates corticospinal excitability during motor training

Rebekah L.S. Summers, Mo Chen, Andrea Hatch, Teresa J. Kimberley

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8 Scopus citations


Background: Cerebellar activity can be modulated using cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (ctDCS) and, when applied concurrently with task training, has been shown to facilitate cognitive and motor performance. However, how ctDCS facilitates motor performance is not fully understood. Objective/Hypothesis: To assess the electrophysiological and motor performance effects of ctDCS applied during motor training. Methods: Fourteen healthy adults (age 28.8 ± 10.5 years) were randomly assigned to complete one session of finger tracking training with either simultaneous bilateral anodal or sham ctDCS. Training was completed in two 15 min epochs with a 5-min break (total 30 min stimulation, 2 mA). Tracking accuracy and corticospinal and intracortical excitability were measured immediately before and after the training period. Motor cortical excitability measures included resting motor threshold (RMT), motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitude, cortical silent period (CSP) and short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI). Results: There was a significant interaction of Group * Time for MEP amplitude and CSP duration (p < 0.01). Post hoc analysis revealed MEP amplitude was increased in the sham group (p < 0.01), indicating increased corticospinal excitability from baseline while the anodal group displayed a decrease in MEP amplitude (p = 0.023) and prolongation of CSP duration (p < 0.01). SICI and RMT remained unchanged following ctDCS and training. Task accuracy was improved in both groups at post-test with a significant effect of Time (p < 0.01); however, there was no effect of Group (p = 0.45) or interaction of Group * Time (p = 0.83). During training, there was a significant effect of Block (p < 0.01) but no significant effect of Group or interaction effect (p > 0.06). Conclusions: ctDCS applied during task training is capable of modulating or interfering with practice-related changes in corticospinal excitability without disrupting performance improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Apr 9 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Cassandra Heil, Jocelyn Johnston, Matt Hirn, and Brad Keller for their assistance in data collection. Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health Award Number UL1TR000114. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. This work was also supported by the University of Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and Innovation Economy initiative.


  • Cerebellum
  • Corticospinal excitability
  • Motor evoked potential
  • Motor performance
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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