New Paper – Sham tDCS: A hidden source of variability Reflections for further blinded, controlled trials

Fonteneau C, Mondino M, Arns M, Baeken C, Bikson M, Brunoni AR, Burke MJ, Neuvonen T, Padberg F, Pascual-Leone A, Poulet E, Ruffini G, Santarnecchi E, Sauvaget A, Schellhorn K, Suaud-Chagny M-F, Palm U, Brunelin J. Sham tDCS: a hidden source of variability? Reflections for further blinded, controlled trials. Brain Stimulation. (In Press). 2019

Download: PDF published in Brain Stimulation – DOI

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique increasingly used to modulate neural activity in the living brain. In order to establish the neurophysiological, cognitive or clinical effects of tDCS, most studies compare the effects of active tDCS to those observed with a sham tDCS intervention. In most cases, sham tDCS consists in delivering an active stimulation for a few seconds to mimic the sensations observed with active tDCS and keep participants blind to the intervention. However, to date, sham-controlled tDCS studies yield inconsistent results, which might arise in part from sham inconsistencies. Indeed, a multiplicity of sham stimulation protocols is being used in the tDCS research field and might have different biological effects beyond the intended transient sensations. Here, we seek to enlighten the scientific community to this possible confounding factor in order to increase reproducibility of neurophysiological, cognitive and clinical tDCS studies.

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Neural Engineering