Dynamic modulation of intrinsic functional connectivity by transcranial direct current stimulation.
Sehm B., Schäfer A., Kipping J., Margulies D., Conde V., Taubert M., Villringer A., Ragert P.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique capable of modulating cortical excitability and thereby influencing behavior and learning. Recent evidence suggests that bilateral tDCS over both primary sensorimotor cortices (SM1) yields more prominent effects on motor performance in both healthy subjects and chronic stroke patients than unilateral tDCS over SM1. To better characterize the underlying neural mechanisms of this effect, we aimed to explore changes in resting-state functional connectivity during both stimulation types. In a randomized single-blind crossover design, 12 healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging at rest before, during, and after 20 min of unilateral, bilateral, and sham tDCS stimulation over SM1. Eigenvector centrality mapping (ECM) was used to investigate tDCS-induced changes in functional connectivity patterns across the whole brain. Uni- and bilateral tDCS over SM1 resulted in functional connectivity changes in widespread brain areas compared with sham stimulation both during and after stimulation. Whereas bilateral tDCS predominantly modulated changes in primary and secondary motor as well as prefrontal regions, unilateral tDCS affected prefrontal, parietal, and cerebellar areas. No direct effect was seen under the stimulating electrode in the unilateral condition. The time course of changes in functional connectivity in the respective brain areas was nonlinear and temporally dispersed. These findings provide evidence toward a network-based understanding regarding the underpinnings of specific tDCS interventions.