Delay eyeblink conditioning (dEBC) is widely used to assess cerebellar-dependent associative motor learning, including precise timing processes. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), noninvasive brain stimulation used to indirectly excite and inhibit select brain regions, may be a promising tool for understanding how functional integrity of the cerebellum influences dEBC behavior. The aim of this study was to assess whether tDCS-induced inhibition (cathodal) and excitation (anodal) of the cerebellum differentially impact timing of dEBC. A standard 10-block dEBC paradigm was administered to 102 healthy participants. Participants were randomized to stimulation conditions in a double-blind, between-subjects sham-controlled design. Participants received 20-min active (anodal or cathodal) stimulation at 1.5 mA (n = 20 anodal, n = 22 cathodal) or 2 mA (n = 19 anodal, n = 21 cathodal) or sham stimulation (n = 20) concurrently with dEBC training. Stimulation intensity and polarity effects on percent conditioned responses (CRs) and CR peak and onset latency were examined using repeated-measures analyses of variance. Acquisition of CRs increased over time at a similar rate across sham and all active stimulation groups. CR peak and onset latencies were later, i.e., closer to air puff onset, in all active stimulation groups compared to the sham group. Thus, tDCS facilitated cerebellar-dependent timing of dEBC, irrespective of stimulation intensity and polarity. These findings highlight the feasibility of using tDCS to modify cerebellar-dependent functions and provide further support for cerebellar contributions to human eyeblink conditioning and for exploring therapeutic tDCS interventions for cerebellar dysfunction.
- Associative learning
- Eyeblink conditioning
- Transcranial direct current stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology