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Journal Article

Individual differences in TMS sensitivity influence the efficacy of tDCS in facilitating sensorimotor adaptation

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Labruna, L., Stark-Inbar, A., Breska, A., Dabit, M., Vanderschelden, B., Nitsche, M., et al. (2019). Individual differences in TMS sensitivity influence the efficacy of tDCS in facilitating sensorimotor adaptation. Brain Stimulation, 12(4), 992-1000. doi:10.1016/j.brs.2019.03.008.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-4C53-5

Background: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can enhance cognitive function in healthy individuals, with promising applications as a therapeutic intervention. Despite this potential, variability in the efficacy of tDCS has been a considerable concern.

Objective: /Hypothesis: Given that tDCS is always applied at a set intensity, we examined whether individual differences in sensitivity to brain stimulation might be one variable that modulates the efficacy of tDCS in a motor learning task.

Methods: In the first part of the experiment, single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over primary motor cortex (M1) was used to determine each participant's resting motor threshold (rMT). This measure was used as a proxy of individual sensitivity to brain stimulation. In an experimental group of 28 participants, 2 mA tDCS was then applied during a motor learning task with the anodal electrode positioned over left M1. Another 14 participants received sham stimulation.

Results: M1-Anodal tDCS facilitated learning relative to participants who received sham stimulation. Of primary interest was a within-group analysis of the experimental group, showing that the rate of learning was positively correlated with rMT: Participants who were more sensitive to brain stimulation as operationalized by our TMS proxy (low rMT), showed faster adaptation.

Conclusions: Methodologically, the results indicate that TMS sensitivity can predict tDCS efficacy in a behavioral task, providing insight into one source of variability that may contribute to replication problems with tDCS. Theoretically, the results provide further evidence of a role of sensorimotor cortex in adaptation, with the boost from tDCS observed during acquisition.