Grasso, P. A., Tonolli, E., Bortoletto, M., & Miniussi, C.

tDCS over posterior parietal cortex increases cortical excitability but decreases learning: An ERPs and TMS-EEG study

Brain Research, 1753, 147227


The application of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (AtDCS) is generally associated with increased neuronal excitability and enhanced cognitive functioning. Nevertheless, previous work showed that applying this straight reasoning does not always lead to the desired results at behavioural level. Here, we investigated elec­ trophysiological markers of AtDCS-mediated effects on visuo-spatial contextual learning (VSCL). In order to assess cortical excitability changes after 3 mA AtDCS applied over posterior parietal cortex, event-related po­ tentials (ERPs) were collected during task performance. Additionally, AtDCS-induced effects on cortical excit­ ability were explored by measuring TMS-evoked potentials (TEPs) collected before AtDCS, after AtDCS and after AtDCS and VSCL interaction. Behavioural results revealed that the application of AtDCS induced a reduction of VSCL. At the electrophysiological level, ERPs showed enhanced cortical response (P2 component) in the group receiving Real-AtDCS as compared to Sham-AtDCS. Cortical responsiveness at rest as measured by TEP, did not indicate any significant difference between Real- and Sham-tDCS groups, albeit a trend was present. Overall, our results suggest that AtDCS increases cortical response to incoming visuo-spatial stimuli, but with no concurrent increase in learning. Detrimental effects on behaviour could result from the interaction between AtDCS- and taskmediated cortical activation. This interaction might enhance cortical excitability and hinder normal task-related neuroplastic phenomena subtending learning.