EEG modulation by different transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) montages: a randomized double-blind sham-control mechanistic pilot trial in healthy participants
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Background: Based on our Phantom study on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), we hypothesized that EEG band power and field confinement would be greater following left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC - F3) tDCS using circular vs. rectangular electrodes.Methods: Double-blind-randomized trial comparing tDCS with anode over left DLPFC (groups: rectangular electrodes, circular electrodes, sham) and 2 active subgroup references (right shoulder vs. right DLPFC).Results: Twenty-four randomized participants were assessed. We indeed found higher average EEG power spectral density (PSD) across bands for circular vs. rectangular electrodes, largely confined to F3 and there was a significant increase at AF3 for low alpha (p = 0.037). Significant differences included: increased PSD in low beta (p = 0.024) and theta bands (p = 0.021) at F3, and in theta (p = 0.036) at FC5 for the right DLPFC vs. shoulder with no coherence changes. We found PSD differences between active vs. sham tDCS at Fz for alpha (p = 0.043), delta (p = 0.036), high delta (p = 0.030); and at FC1 for alpha (p = 0.031), with coherence differences for F3-Fz in beta (p = 0.044), theta (p = 0.044), delta (p = 0.037) and high delta (p = 0.009).Conclusion: This pilot study despite low statistical power given its small sample size shows that active left DLPFC tDCS modulates EEG frontocentrally and suggests that electrode shapes/reference locations affect its neurophysiological effects, such as increased low alpha power at AF3 using circular vs. rectangular electrodes. Further research with more participants is warranted.
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