Response variability of different anodal transcranial direct current stimulation intensities across multiple sessions

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48 Scopus citations


Background It is well known that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is capable of modulating corticomotor excitability. However, a source of growing concern has been the observed inter- and intra-individual variability of tDCS-responses. Recent studies have assessed whether individuals respond in a predictable manner across repeated sessions of anodal tDCS (atDCS). The findings of these investigations have been inconsistent, and their methods have some limitations (i.e. lack of sham condition or testing only one tDCS intensity). Objective To study inter- and intra-individual variability of atDCS effects at two different intensities on primary motor cortex (M1) excitability. Methods Twelve subjects participated in a crossover study testing 7-min atDCS over M1 in three separate conditions (2 mA, 1 mA, sham) each repeated three times separated by 48 h. Motor evoked potentials were recorded before and after stimulation (up to 30min). Time of testing was maintained consistent within participants. To estimate the reliability of tDCS effects across sessions, we calculated the Intra-class Correlation Coefficient (ICC). Results AtDCS at 2 mA, but not 1 mA, significantly increased cortical excitability at the group level in all sessions. The overall ICC revealed fair to high reliability of tDCS effects for multiple sessions. Given that the distribution of responses showed important variability in the sham condition, we established a Sham Variability-Based Threshold to classify responses and to track individual changes across sessions. Using this threshold an intra-individual consistent response pattern was then observed only for the 2 mA condition. Conclusion 2 mA anodal tDCS results in consistent intra- and inter-individual increases of M1 excitability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-763
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Cortical plasticity
  • Inter-individual variability
  • Intra-individual variability
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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