The Effect of Cerebellar Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Motor Learning: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials
Kumari, N; Taylor, D; Signal, N
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Background: Cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (ctDCS) appears to modulate motor performance in both adaptation and motor skill tasks; however, whether the gains are long-lasting is unclear. Objectives: This systematic review aims to evaluate the effect of ctDCS with respect to different time scales of motor learning. Methods: Ten electronic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, SPORT Discus, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane via OVID, Evidence-Based Reviews (EBM) via OVID, AMED: Allied and Complementary Medicine, PsycINFO, and PEDro) were systematically searched. Studies evaluating the effect of ctDCS compared to sham ctDCS on motor learning in healthy individuals were selected and reviewed. Two authors independently reviewed the quality of the included studies using the revised Cochrane's risk-of-bias tool. The results were extracted with respect to the time scale in which changes in motor performance were evaluated. Results: Seventeen randomized controlled trials met the eligibility criteria of which 65% of the studies had a "high" risk-of-bias, and 35% had "some concerns." These studies included data from 629 healthy participants. Of the studies that evaluated the effect of anodal ctDCS during and immediately after the stimulation, four found enhanced, three found impaired, and ten found no effect on gains in motor performance. Of the studies that evaluated the effect of anodal ctDCS after a break of 24 h or more, seven found enhanced, two found impaired, and one found no effect on gains in motor performance. Of the studies that evaluated the effect of cathodal ctDCS across a range of time scales, five found impaired, one found enhanced, and five found no effect on gains in motor performance. Conclusions: In healthy individuals, anodal ctDCS appears to improve short to longer-term motor skill learning, whereas it appears to have no effect on gains in motor performance during and immediate after the stimulation. ctDCS may have potential to improve motor performance beyond the training period. The challenge of the motor task and its characteristics, and the stimulation parameters are likely to influence the effect of ctDCS on motor learning.