Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has gained increasing interest in neurorehabilitation with its ability to modulate cortical excitability, and thereby influence neural plasticity and functional recovery. While the beneficial effects of tDCS on motor learning and function have been recognized, there is no clear consensus regarding the timing of the tDCS priming protocol in relation to the intervention especially with respect to lower limb motor learning. Depending on the time of priming in relation to the training task, the neural mechanisms of priming (gating vs. homeostatic plasticity) are different and thereby subsequently affect motor learning. Hence, the aim of this study was to examine the interaction of tDCS with subsequent vs. concurrent motor learning using an ankle visuomotor skill learning paradigm. Twelve healthy participants were tested under three stimulation conditions: (1) anodal tDCS prior to the motor task (tDCS-before), (2) anodal tDCS during the motor task (tDCS-during) and (3) sham tDCS during the motor task (tDCS-sham). Results revealed that tDCS application during practice of a skilled motor task increased motor performance compared to tDCS applied prior to motor practice. Both tDCS groups demonstrated enhanced motor learning when tested 24 h after practice. We conclude that the priming effects of tDCS are timing dependent, and maybe a critical regulatory feature in determining outcomes of priming with tDCS.
Copyright © 2014 Published by Elsevier B.V.
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