Concurrent electrical cervicomedullary stimulation and cervical transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation result in a stimulus interaction
Blackwell Publishing Ltd
School of Medical and Health Sciences
What is the central question of this study?
We previously showed that the motor pathway is not modified after cervical transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) applied using anterior–posterior electrodes. Here, we examine the motor pathway during stimulation.
What is the main finding and its importance?
We show that electrically elicited muscle responses to cervicomedullary stimulation are modified during tsDCS, whereas magnetically elicited responses are not. Modelling reveals electrical field modifications during concurrent tsDCS and electrical cervicomedullary stimulation. Changes in muscle response probably result from electrical field modifications rather than physiological changes. Care should be taken when applying electrical stimuli simultaneously.
Transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS) can modulate neuronal excitability within the human spinal cord; however, few studies have used tsDCS at a cervical level. This study aimed to characterize cervical tsDCS further by observing its acute effects on motor responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation and cervicomedullary stimulation. In both studies 1 and 2, participants (study 1, n = 8, four female; and study 2, n = 8, three female) received two periods of 10 min, 3 mA cervical tsDCS on the same day through electrodes placed in an anterior–posterior configuration over the neck; one period with the cathode posterior (c-tsDCS) and the other with the anode posterior (a-tsDCS). In study 1, electrically elicited cervicomedullary motor evoked potentials (eCMEPs) and transcranial magnetic stimulation-elicited motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were measured in biceps brachii and flexor carpi radialis before, during and after each tsDCS period. In study 2, eCMEPs and magnetically elicited CMEPs (mCMEPs) were measured before, during and after each tsDCS period. For study 3, computational modelling was used to observe possible interactions of cervical tsDCS and electrical cervicomedullary stimulation. Studies 1 and 2 revealed that eCMEPs were larger during c-tsDCS and smaller during a-tsDCS compared with those elicited when tsDCS was off (P < 0.05), with no changes in MEPs or mCMEPs. Modelling revealed that eCMEP changes might result from modifications of the electrical field direction and magnitude when combined with cervical tsDCS. Bidirectional eCMEP changes are likely to be caused by an interaction between cervical tsDCS and electrical cervicomedullary stimulation; therefore, care should be taken when combining such electrical stimuli in close proximity.