The present study investigated the effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on lower extremity muscle strength training in 24 healthy participants. In this triple-blind, sham-controlled study, participants were randomly allocated to the anodal tDCS plus muscle strength training (anodal tDCS) group or sham tDCS plus muscle strength training (sham tDCS) group. Anodal tDCS (2 mA) was applied to the primary motor cortex of the lower extremity during muscle strength training of the knee extensors and flexors. Training was conducted once every 3 days for 3 weeks (7 sessions). Knee extensor and flexor peak torques were evaluated before and after the 3 weeks of training. After the 3-week intervention, peak torques of knee extension and flexion changed from 155.9 to 191.1 Nm and from 81.5 to 93.1 Nm in the anodal tDCS group. Peak torques changed from 164.1 to 194.8 Nm on extension and from 78.0 to 85.6 Nm on flexion in the sham tDCS group. In both groups, peak torques of knee extension and flexion significantly increased after the intervention, with no significant difference between the anodal tDCS and sham tDCS groups. In conclusion, although the administration of eccentric training increased knee extensor and flexor peak torques, anodal tDCS did not enhance the effects of lower extremity muscle strength training in healthy individuals. The present null results have crucial implications for selecting optimal stimulation parameters for clinical trials.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive cortical stimulation procedure in which weak direct currents polarize target brain regions (Nitsche and Paulus, 2000). The application of anodal tDCS to the primary motor cortex of the lower extremity transiently increases corticospinal excitability in healthy individuals (Jeffery et al., 2007; Tatemoto et al., 2013) and improves motor function in healthy individuals and patients with stroke (Tanaka et al., 2009, 2011; Madhavan et al., 2011; Sriraman et al., 2014; Chang et al., 2015; Montenegro et al., 2015, 2016; Angius et al., 2016; Washabaugh et al., 2016). Thus, anodal tDCS has a potential to become a new adjunct therapeutic strategy for the rehabilitation of leg motor function and locomotion following a stroke.
Lower leg muscle strength is an important motor function required for patients who have had a stroke to regain activities of daily living (ADL). Lower leg muscle strength correlates with performance in activities, including sit-to-stand, gait, and stair ascent (Bohannon, 2007). Furthermore, lower leg muscle strength training increases muscle strength and improves ADL in patients with stroke (Ada et al., 2006). Therefore, lower leg muscle strength training is one of the important activities rehabilitating patients with stroke to regain their independence in ADL.
Several studies have examined the effect of a single session of tDCS on lower leg muscle strength, although the evidence is inconsistent (Tanaka et al., 2009, 2011; Montenegro et al., 2015, 2016; Angius et al., 2016; Washabaugh et al., 2016). Its effects seem dependent on tDCS protocols, training tasks, muscle groups, and subject populations. Although, most tDCS studies on lower leg muscle strength have focused on the acute effects of a single tDCS application, to the best of our knowledge, no study has examined how lower extremity strength training combined with repeated sessions of tDCS affects lower leg muscle strength. This type of investigation has strong clinical implications for the application of tDCS in rehabilitation for patients with lower leg muscle weakness.
Thus, to examine whether anodal tDCS can enhance the effects of lower extremity muscle strength training, the present study simultaneously applied anodal tDCS and lower extremity muscle strength training to healthy individuals and evaluated their effects on lower extremity muscle strength.
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