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tDCS over left M1 or DLPFC does not improve learning of a bimanual coordination task

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kathleen Vancleef



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Previously, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the primary motor cortex (M1) has resulted in improved performance in simple motor tasks. For a complex bimanual movement, studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation indicated the involvement of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) as well as left M1. Here we investigated the relative effect of up-regulating the cortical function in left DLPFC and left M1 with tDCS. Participants practised a complex bimanual task over four days while receiving either of five stimulation protocols: anodal tDCS applied over M1, anodal tDCS over DLPFC, sham tDCS over M1, sham tDCS over DLPFC, or no stimulation. Performance was measured at the start and end of each training day to make a distinction between acquisition and consolidation. Although task performance improved over days, no significant difference between stimulation protocols was observed, suggesting that anodal tDCS had little effect on learning the bimanual task regardless of the stimulation sites and learning phase (acquisition or consolidation). Interestingly, cognitive performance as well as corticomotor excitability did not change following stimulation. Accordingly, we found no evidence for behavioural or neurophysiological changes following tDCS over left M1 or left DLPFC in learning a complex bimanual task.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Vancleef K, Meesen R, Swinnen SP, Fujiyama H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2016

Volume: 6

Online publication date: 25/10/2016

Acceptance date: 04/10/2016

Date deposited: 07/12/2016

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/srep35739


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Funder referenceFunder name
Flanders Fund for Scientific Research (FWO)
C16/15/070KU Leuven Research Fund Grant
G0708.14Flanders Fund for Scientific Research (FWO)
P7/11Interuniversity Attraction Poles Program