Application of anodal tDCS at primary motor cortex immediately after practice of a motor sequence does not improve offline gain
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Tecchio et al. (J Neurophysiology 104: 1134-1140, 2010) reported that the application of anodal tDCS at primary motor cortex (M1) immediately after practice of a procedural motor skill enhanced consolidation, which in turn improved offline gain. Tecchio et al. noted, however, that this study did not account for known after-effects associated with this form of non-invasive stimulation. The present study was designed to explicitly reevaluate Tecchio et al.'s claim. As in the original study, individuals experienced either anodal or sham stimulation at M1 after practice of a serial reaction time task (SRTT) followed by test trials 15-min later. Two additional novel conditions experienced the test trials after 120-min rather than 15-min thus allowing potential stimulation after-effects to dissipate. The expectation was that if anodal stimulation influences post-practice consolidation leading to offline gain, this effect would be present not only at 15-min but also after 120-min. In agreement with the working hypothesis, findings revealed offline gain at both 15-min and the longer 2-h time period. Unexpectedly, we found no interaction between real and sham conditions. The lack of difference between Real and Sham effects weakens confidence in the potential of post-practice tDCS for consolidation enhancement, while it is more consistent with other claims that decoupling practice and anodal tDCS stimulation in time can reduce the effectiveness of exogenous stimulation for procedural skill gain.