A pilot study of the tolerability and effects of high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) on pain perception

Jeffrey J. Borckardt, Marom Bikson, Heather Frohman, Scott T. Reeves, Abhishek Datta, Varun Bansal, Alok Madan, Kelly Barth, Mark S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

159 Scopus citations

Abstract

Several brain stimulation technologies are beginning to evidence promise as pain treatments. However, traditional versions of 1 specific technique, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), stimulate broad regions of cortex with poor spatial precision. A new tDCS design, called high definition tDCS (HD-tDCS), allows for focal delivery of the charge to discrete regions of the cortex. We sought to preliminarily test the safety and tolerability of the HD-tDCS technique as well as to evaluate whether HD-tDCS over the motor cortex would decrease pain and sensory experience. Twenty-four healthy adult volunteers underwent quantitative sensory testing before and after 20 minutes of real (n = 13) or sham (n = 11) 2 mA HD-tDCS over the motor cortex. No adverse events occurred and no side effects were reported. Real HD-tDCS was associated with significantly decreased heat and cold sensory thresholds, decreased thermal wind-up pain, and a marginal analgesic effect for cold pain thresholds. No significant effects were observed for mechanical pain thresholds or heat pain thresholds. HD-tDCS appears well tolerated, and produced changes in underlying cortex that are associated with changes in pain perception. Future studies are warranted to investigate HD-tDCS in other applications, and to examine further its potential to affect pain perception. Perspective: This article presents preliminary tolerability and efficacy data for a new focal brain stimulation technique called high definition transcranial direct current stimulation. This technique may have applications in the management of pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • HD-tDCS
  • MCS
  • TMS
  • electrical brain stimulation
  • pain
  • tDCS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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