Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Shows Minimal, Measure-Specific Effects on Dynamic Postural Control in Young and Older Adults: A Double Blind, Sham-Controlled Study

Chesney E. Craig, Michail Doumas

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We investigated whether stimulating the cerebellum and primary motor cortex (M1) using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) could affect postural control in young and older adults. tDCS was employed using a double-blind, sham-controlled design, in which young (aged 18–35) and older adults (aged 65+) were assessed over three sessions, one for each stimulatory condition–M1, cerebellar and sham. The effect of tDCS on postural control was assessed using a sway-referencing paradigm, which induced platform rotations in proportion to the participant’s body sway, thus assessing sensory reweighting processes. Task difficulty was manipulated so that young adults experienced a support surface that was twice as compliant as that of older adults, in order to minimise baseline age differences in postural sway. Effects of tDCS on postural control were assessed during, immediately after and 30 minutes after tDCS. Additionally, the effect of tDCS on corticospinal excitability was measured by evaluating motor evoked potentials using transcranial magnetic stimulation immediately after and 30 minutes after tDCS. Minimal effects of tDCS on postural control were found in the eyes open condition only, and this was dependent on the measure assessed and age group. For young adults, stimulation had only offline effects, as cerebellar stimulation showed higher mean power frequency (MPF) of sway 30 minutes after stimulation. For older adults, both stimulation conditions delayed the increase in sway amplitude witnessed between blocks one and two until stimulation was no longer active. In conclusion, despite tDCS’ growing popularity, we would caution researchers to consider carefully the type of measures assessed and the groups targeted in tDCS studies of postural control.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2017


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