Anodal-tDCS applied during unilateral strength training increases strength and corticospinal excitability in the untrained homologous muscle

Ashlee M. Hendy, Dawson J. Kidgell

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Evidence suggests that the cross-transfer of strength following unilateral training may be modulated by increased corticospinal excitability of the ipsilateral primary motor cortex, due to cross-activation. Anodal-tDCS (a-tDCS) has been shown to acutely increase corticospinal excitability and motor performance, which may enhance this process. Therefore, we sought to examine changes in neural activation and strength of the untrained limb following the application of a-tDCS during a single unilateral strength training session. Ten participants underwent three conditions in a randomized, double-blinded crossover design: (1) strength training + a-tDCS, (2) strength training + sham-tDCS and (3) a-tDCS alone. a-tDCS was applied for 20 min at 2 mA over the right motor cortex. Unilateral strength training of the right wrist involved 4 × 6 wrist extensions at 70 % of maximum. Outcome measures included maximal voluntary strength, corticospinal excitability, short-interval intracortical inhibition, and cross-activation. We observed a significant increase in strength of the untrained wrist (5.27 %), a decrease in short-interval intracortical inhibition (−13.49 %), and an increase in cross-activation (15.71 %) when strength training was performed with a-tDCS, but not following strength training with sham-tDCS, or tDCS alone. Corticospinal excitability of the untrained wrist increased significantly following both strength training with a-tDCS (17.29 %), and a-tDCS alone (15.15 %), but not following strength training with sham-tDCS. These findings suggest that a single session of a-tDCS combined with unilateral strength training of the right limb increases maximal strength and cross-activation to the contralateral untrained limb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3243-3252
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Corticospinal excitability
  • Cross-activation
  • Cross-transfer
  • Strength
  • tDCS

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