UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Distinct Effects of Brain Activation Using tDCS and Observational Practice: Implications for Motor Rehabilitation McLeod, Julianne; Chavan, Anuj; Lee, Harvey; Sattari, Sahar; Kurry, Simrut; Wake, Miku; Janmohamed, Zia; Hodges, Nicola Jane; Virji-Babul, Naznin


Complex motor skills can be acquired while observing a model without physical practice. Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) applied to the primary motor cortex (M1) also facilitates motor learning. However, the effectiveness of observational practice for bimanual coordination skills is debated. We compared the behavioural and brain causal connectivity patterns following three interventions: primary motor cortex stimulation (M1-tDCS), action-observation (AO) and a combined group (AO+M1-tDCS) when acquiring a bimanual, two-ball juggling skill. Thirty healthy young adults with no juggling experience were randomly assigned to either video observation of a skilled juggler, anodal M1-tDCS or video observation combined with M1-tDCS. Thirty trials of juggling were performed and scored after the intervention. Resting-state EEG data were collected before and after the intervention. Information flow rate was applied to EEG source data to measure causal connectivity. The two observation groups were more accurate than the tDCS alone group. In the AO condition, there was strong information exchange from (L) parietal to (R) parietal regions, strong bidirectional information exchange between (R) parietal and (R) occipital regions and an extensive network of activity that was (L) lateralized. The M1-tDCS condition was characterized by bilateral long-range connections with the strongest information exchange from the (R) occipital region to the (R) temporal and (L) occipital regions. AO+M1-tDCS induced strong bidirectional information exchange in occipital and temporal regions in both hemispheres. Uniquely, it was the only condition that was characterized by information exchange between the (R) frontal and central regions. This study provides new results about the distinct network dynamics of stimulating the brain for skill acquisition, providing insights for motor rehabilitation.

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