Enhancing Consolidation of a New Temporal Motor Skill by Cerebellar Noninvasive Stimulation

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Cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has the potential to modulate cerebellar outputs and visuomotor adaptation. The cerebellum plays a pivotal role in the acquisition and control of skilled hand movements, especially its temporal aspects. We applied cerebellar anodal tDCS concurrently with training of a synchronization-continuation motor task. We hypothesized that anodal cerebellar tDCS will enhance motor skill acquisition. Cerebellar tDCS was applied to the right cerebellum in 31 healthy subjects in a double-blind, sham-controlled, parallel design. During synchronization, the subjects tapped the sequence in line with auditory cues. Subsequently, in continuation, the learned sequence was reproduced without auditory cuing. Motor task performance was evaluated before, during, 90 min, and 24 h after training. Anodal cerebellar tDCS, compared with sham, improved the task performance in the follow-up tests (F1,28 = 5.107,P= 0.032) of the synchronization part. This effect on retention of the skill was most likely mediated by enhanced motor consolidation. We provided first evidence that cerebellar tDCS can enhance the retention of a fine motor skill. This finding supports the promising approach of using noninvasive brain stimulation techniques to restore impaired motor functions in neurological patients, such after a stroke.

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