The cerebellum appears to play a key role in the development of internal rules that allow fast, predictive adjustments to novel stimuli. This is crucial for adaptive motor processes, such as those involved in walking, where cerebellar dysfunction has been found to increase variability in gait parameters. Motor adaptation is a process that results in a progressive reduction in errors as movements are adjusted to meet demands, and within the cerebellum, this seems to be localised primarily within the right hemisphere. To examine the role of the right cerebellar hemisphere in adaptive gait, cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) was administered to the right cerebellar hemisphere of 14 healthy adults in a randomised, double-blind, crossover study. Adaptation to a series of distinct spatial and temporal templates was assessed across tDCS condition via a pressure-sensitive gait mat (ProtoKinetics Zeno walkway), on which participants walked with an induced ‘limp’ at a non-preferred pace. Variability was assessed across key spatial-temporal gait parameters. It was hypothesised that cathodal tDCS to the right cerebellar hemisphere would disrupt adaptation to the templates, reflected in a failure to reduce variability following stimulation. In partial support, adaptation was disrupted following tDCS on one of the four spatial-temporal templates used. However, there was no evidence for general effects on either the spatial or temporal domain. This suggests, under specific conditions, a coupling of spatial and temporal processing in the right cerebellar hemisphere and highlights the potential importance of task complexity in cerebellar function.
- Transcranial direct current stimulation