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Publication Detail
Dose-controlled tDCS reduces electric field intensity variability at a cortical target site
  • Publication Type:
    Working discussion paper
  • Authors:
    Evans C, Bachmann C, Lee J, Gregoriou E, Ward N, Bestmann S
  • Publication date:
  • Status:


Variable effects limit the efficacy of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a research and therapeutic tool. Conventional application of a fixed-dose of tDCS does not account for inter-individual differences in anatomy (e.g. skull thickness), which varies the amount of current reaching the brain. Individualised dose-control may reduce the variable effects of tDCS by reducing variability in electric field intensities at a cortical target site.


To characterise the variability in electric field intensity at a cortical site (left primary motor cortex; M1) and throughout the brain for conventional fixed-dose tDCS, and individualised dose-controlled tDCS.


The intensity and distribution of the electric field during tDCS was estimated using Realistic Volumetric Approach to Simulate Transcranial Electric Stimulation (ROAST) in 50 individual brain scans taken from the Human Connectome Project, for fixed-dose tDCS (1mA & 2mA) and individualised dose-controlled tDCS targeting left M1.


With a fixed-dose (1mA & 2mA), E-field intensity in left M1 varied by more than 100% across individuals, with substantial variation observed throughout the brain as well. Individualised dose-controlled ensured the same E-field intensity was delivered to left M1 in all individuals. Its variance in other regions of interest (right M1 and area underneath the electrodes) was comparable with fixed- and individualised-dose.


Individualized dose-control can eliminate the variance in electric field intensities at a cortical target site. Assuming that the current delivered to the brain directly determines its physiological and behavioural consequences, this approach may allow for reducing the known variability of tDCS effects.
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