Author(s): Nitsche MA, Liebetanz D, Tergau F, Paulus W, Nitsche MA, Liebetanz D, Tergau F, Paulus W
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Abstract Modulation of cerebral excitability is thought to be one mechanism underlying the pharmacological treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases such as epilepsy, depression, and dystonia. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been tested for several years as a nonpharmacological, noninvasive method of directly influencing patients' cortical functions. We present an overview of the more easily performed transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) with weak current, which produces distinctly more pronounced changes in excitability than rTMS. The basic underlying mechanism is a shift in the resting membrane potential towards either hyper- or depolarisation, depending on stimulation polarity. This in turn leads to changes in the excitability of cortical neurons. Anodic stimulation increases cortical excitability, while cathodic stimulation decreases it. These changes persist after the end of stimulation if the stimulation lasts long enough, i.e., at least several minutes. The duration of this aftereffect can be controlled through the duration and intensity of the stimulation. Transcranial direct current stimulation essentially allows a focal, selective, reversible, pain-free, and noninvasive induction of changes in cortical excitability, the therapeutic potential of which must be evaluated in clinical studies, once possible risk factors have been assessed.
This article was published in Nervenarzt
and referenced in Journal of Neurology & Neurophysiology