How can transcranial direct current stimulation influence sports exercises for normal or high-level practitioners

Authors: Edis Mustafa1,2, Marius Nicolae Popescu1,3, Matei Teodorescu1,3, Mihai Berteanu1,3



1“Carol Davila” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania

2Medical Rehabilitation Department of the Sf. Ioan Clinical and Emergency Hospital, Bucharest, Romania

3Medical Rehabilitation Department of the Elias Emergency University Hospital, Bucharest, Romania



Background. When transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) was reintroduced as a non-invasive brain stimulation technique, it had been known for more than 50 years that the main mechanism of action was the sub-threshold regulation of neuronal membrane potential, which depended on changing the cortical excitability and activity through the current flow of the target neuron. In this review we concentrated on the progress made for tDCS in the last few years in sports, which so far has partially found entrance into the design of clinical studies, and on results obtained in recently conducted clinical pilot studies.

Aims. Our objective was to analyze the effects of tDCS în sport exercises, for normal or high-level practitioners.

Methods. We performed a literature review în different databases: PubMed, Web of Science, SCOPUS, SportDiscus, Google Scholar. Full text articles that used tDCS for exercise performance improvement in athletes were included (only articles in English were found). We searched for articles available in each database until 15 January 2018. We used articles published in journals, randomized sham controlled trials comparing anodal stimulation and cathodal stimulation to a sham / control for performance in isometric, isokinetic or dynamic strength exercise and whole-body exercise.

Results. We included 23 studies that met our selection criteria, in which tDCS produced changes in cycling training for: the whole body (9 articles), for muscle strength in isometric exercise (7 articles), for maximal isometric voluntary contraction (MIVC) (2 articles), for isokinetic exercises (3 articles) and during dynamic exercise (2 articles).

Conclusions. The anodal stimulation (a-tDCS) on the motor cortex (M1) had better results than sham stimulation especially for cycling exercises; consequently, more studies and attempts of different montages are needed. Interest in tDCS is constantly growing, as evidenced by the growing number of studies in recent years. Consequently, positive results will appear more and more with the discovery of optimal stimulation parameters. In other words research must continue for this therapy of the future to become a consistent therapeutic alternative, especially in performance athletes.


Key words: transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS or HD-tDCS), exercise, fatigue, athletic performance, non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS).


How can transcranial direct current stimulation influence sports exercises for normal or high-level practitioners