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Papers of the Week

2021 May 21

Neurosci Lett

Revisiting the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials.



Despite increasing growth of interest in transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), its underlying mechanisms are still unclear. With many claims based on the anodal-excitation and cathodal-inhibition dichotomy originally observed in the motor cortex, surprisingly few studies have examined these fundamental polarity-specific effects beyond the motor cortex. The after-effects of tDCS on the visual cortex are of particular interest because of their potential application to vision restoration and migraine treatment. Yet the limited studies revealed conflicting results. Here we investigated whether polarity-specific tDCS effects exist in the visual cortex. In a counterbalanced within-subject crossover design, 20 healthy subjects each completed three sessions of anodal, cathodal and sham tDCS (2 mA for 20 min) applied over the visual cortex. Pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials (VEP) and their habituation slopes were measured at five time-points immediately before, after and every 15 minutes following the end of tDCS. Compared to sham, we found no significant tDCS induced after-effects on VEP amplitudes or habituation slopes, supported by strong evidence from Bayesian statistics. Neither were there any after-effects of tDCS on EEG power of the frequency of stimulus presentation, theta or alpha band. In conclusion, our results challenge previous findings of robust polarity-dependent after-effects of tDCS over the visual cortex.