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The spinal cord is an integration center for descending, ascending, and segmental neural signals. Noninvasive transspinal stimulation may thus constitute an effective method for concomitant modulation of local and distal neural circuits. In this study, we established changes in cortical excitability and input/output function of corticospinal and spinal neural circuits before, at 0–15 and at 30–45 minutes after cathodal, anodal, and sham transspinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) to the thoracic region in healthy individuals. We found that intracortical inhibition was different among stimulation polarities, however remained unchanged over time. Intracortical facilitation increased after cathodal and anodal tsDCS delivered with subjects seated, and decreased after cathodal tsDCS delivered with subjects lying supine. Both cathodal and anodal tsDCS increased corticospinal excitability, yet facilitation was larger and persisted for 30 minutes post stimulation only when cathodal tsDCS was delivered with subjects lying supine. Spinal input/output reflex function was decreased by cathodal and not anodal tsDCS. These changes may be attributed to altered spontaneous neural activity and membrane potentials of corticomotoneuronal cells by tsDCS involving similar mechanisms to those mediating motor learning. Our findings indicate that thoracic tsDCS has the ability to concomitantly alter cortical, corticospinal, and spinal motor output in humans.


This article was originally published in Scientific Reports, available at DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-18872-z 1.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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