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Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) modulates cortical excitability and is being used for human studies more frequently. Here we probe the underlying neuronal mechanisms by measuring polarity-specific changes in neurotransmitter concentrations using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). MRS provides evidence that excitatory (anodal) tDCS causes locally reduced GABA while inhibitory (cathodal) stimulation causes reduced glutamatergic neuronal activity with a highly correlated reduction in GABA, presumably due to the close biochemical relationship between the two neurotransmitters.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





5202 - 5206


Adult, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Middle Aged, Neurotransmitter Agents, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Young Adult