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Evidence that some long-lasting effects of direct current in the rat spinal cord are activity-independent

Journal article
Authors Elzbieta Jankowska
Dominik Kaczmarek
Francesco Bolzoni
Ingela Hammar
Published in European Journal of Neuroscience
Volume 43
Issue 10
Pages 1400-1411
ISSN 0953-816X
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Physiology
Pages 1400-1411
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13238
Keywords direct current polarization, excitability, rat, spinal cord, synaptic actions, direct-current stimulation, human motor cortex, noninvasive, brain-stimulation, transcranial dc-stimulation, term facilitation, red, nucleus, plasticity, modulation, humans, mechanisms, Neurosciences & Neurology
Subject categories Neurology

Abstract

The effects of trans-spinal direct current (DC) stimulation (tsDCS) on specific neuronal populations are difficult to elucidate, as it affects a variety of neuronal networks. However, facilitatory and depressive effects on neurons processing information from the skin and from muscles can be evaluated separately when weak (0.2-0.3 mu A) DC is applied within restricted areas of the rat spinal cord. The effects of such local DC application were recently demonstrated to persist for at least 1 h, and to include changes in the excitability of afferent fibres and their synaptic actions. However, whether these effects require activation of afferent fibres in spinal neuronal pathways during DC application, i.e. whether they are activity-dependent or activity-independent, remained an open question. The aim of the present study was to address this question by analysing the effects of local DC application on monosynaptic actions of muscle and skin afferents (extracellular field potentials) and afferent fibre excitability. The results revealed that long-lasting post-polarization changes evoked without concomitant activation of afferent fibres replicate changes evoked by stimuli applied during, before and after polarization. The study leads to the conclusion that the reported effects are activity-independent. As this conclusion applies to the local effects of DC application in at least two spinal pathways and to the effects of both cathodal and anodal polarization, it indicates that some of the more widespread effects of trans-spinal and transcranial stimulation (both tsDCS and transcranial DC stimulation) may be activity-independent. The results may therefore contribute to the design of more specific DC applications in clinical practice.

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