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.