Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in depression induces structural plasticity

Mayank A. Jog*, Cole Anderson, Antoni Kubicki, Michael Boucher, Amber Leaver, Gerhard Hellemann, Marco Iacoboni, Roger Woods, Katherine Narr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive neuromodulation technique involving administration of well-tolerated electrical current to the brain through scalp electrodes. TDCS may improve symptoms in neuropsychiatric disorders, but mixed results from recent clinical trials underscore the need to demonstrate that tDCS can modulate clinically relevant brain systems over time in patients. Here, we analyzed longitudinal structural MRI data from a randomized, double-blind, parallel-design clinical trial in depression (NCT03556124, N = 59) to investigate whether serial tDCS individually targeted to the left dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) can induce neurostructural changes. Significant (FWEc p < 0.05) treatment-related gray matter changes were observed with active high-definition (HD) tDCS relative to sham tDCS within the left DLPFC stimulation target. No changes were observed with active conventional tDCS. A follow-up analysis within individual treatment groups revealed significant gray matter increases with active HD-tDCS in brain regions functionally connected with the stimulation target, including the bilateral DLPFC, bilateral posterior cingulate cortex, subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, and the right hippocampus, thalamus and left caudate brain regions. Integrity of blinding was verified, no significant differences in stimulation-related discomfort were observed between treatment groups, and tDCS treatments were not augmented by any other adjunct treatments. Overall, these results demonstrate that serial HD-tDCS leads to neurostructural changes at a predetermined brain target in depression and suggest that such plasticity effects may propagate over brain networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2841
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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