What Effect Does tDCS Have on the Brain? Basic Physiology of tDCS

Authors: Jamil A; Nitsche MA.

Purpose of the ReviewTranscranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can effectively modulate a wide range of clinical and cognitive outcomes by modulating cortical excitability. Here, we summarize the main findings from both animal and human neurophysiology literature, which have revealed mechanistic evidence for the acute and neuroplastic after-effects of tDCS. Recent FindingsInsights into the magnitude and geometric orientation of transcranially induced currents have been provided by the combination of computational modeling of current flow in animal slice preparations and intracranial recordings in humans. In addition to its synaptic effects, stimulation also induces after-effects on the glial and vascular systems, the latter also observed in humans by magnetic resonance imaging. Several studies have also observed non-linear or antagonistic effects of tDCS parameters, which warrants further systematic studies to explore and understand the basic mechanisms. SummarytDCS is a valuable and promising technique across the neurophysiological, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical domains of research. Primary and secondary effects of tDCS still remain to be completely understood. An important challenge for the field is advancing tDCS protocols forward for optimal intervention and treatment strategies.

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