Low intensity focused tDCS over the motor cortex shows inefficacy to improve motor imagery performance

Irma N. Angulo-Sherman, Marisol Rodríguez-Ugarte, Eduardo Iáñez, Jose M. Azorín

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a brain stimulation technique that can enhance motor activity by stimulating the motor path. Thus, tDCS has the potential of improving the performance of brain-computer interfaces during motor neurorehabilitation. tDCS effects depend on several aspects, including the current density, which usually varies between 0.02 and 0.08 mA/cm 2, and the location of the stimulation electrodes. Hence, testing tDCS montages at several current levels would allow the selection of current parameters for improving stimulation outcomes and the comparison of montages. In a previous study, we found that cortico-cerebellar tDCS shows potential of enhancing right-hand motor imagery. In this paper, we aim to evaluate the effects of the focal stimulation of the motor cortex over motor imagery. In particular, the effect of supplying tDCS with a 4 × 1 ring montage, which consists in placing an anode on the motor cortex and four cathodes around it, over motor imagery was assessed with different current densities. Electroencephalographic (EEG) classification into rest or right-hand/feet motor imagery was evaluated on five healthy subjects for two stimulation schemes: applying tDCS for 10 min on the (1) right-hand or (2) feet motor cortex before EEG recording. Accuracy differences related to the tDCS intensity, as well as μ and ß band power changes, were tested for each subject and tDCS modality. In addition, a simulation of the electric field induced by the montage was used to describe its effect on the brain. Results show no improvement trends on classification for the evaluated currents, which is in accordance with the observation of variable EEG band power results despite the focused stimulation. The lack of effects is probably related to the underestimation of the current intensity required to apply a particular current density for small electrodes and the relatively short inter-electrode distance. Hence, higher current intensities should be evaluated in the future for this montage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number391
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Angulo-Sherman, Rodríguez-Ugarte, Iáñez and Azorín.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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