Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) can electrically activate paretic muscles to assist movement for post-stroke neurorehabilitation. Here, sensory-motor integration may be facilitated by triggering FES with residual electromyographic (EMG) activity. However, muscle activity following stroke often suffers from delays in initiation and termination which may be alleviated with an adjuvant treatment at the central nervous system (CNS) level with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) thereby facilitating re-learning and retaining of normative muscle activation patterns.
This study on 12 healthy volunteers was conducted to investigate the effects of anodal tDCS of the primary motor cortex (M1) and cerebellum on latencies during isometric contraction of tibialis anterior (TA) muscle for myoelectric visual pursuit with quick initiation/termination of muscle activation i.e. 'ballistic EMG control’ as well as modulation of EMG for 'proportional EMG control’.
The normalized delay in initiation and termination of muscle activity during post-intervention 'ballistic EMG control’ trials showed a significant main effect of the anodal tDCS target: cerebellar, M1, sham (F(2) = 2.33, p < 0.1), and interaction effect between tDCS target and step-response type: initiation/termination of muscle activation (F(2) = 62.75, p < 0.001), but no significant effect for the step-response type (F(1) = 0.03, p = 0.87). The post-intervention population marginal means during 'ballistic EMG control’ showed two important findings at 95% confidence interval (critical values from Scheffe’s S procedure): 1. Offline cerebellar anodal tDCS increased the delay in initiation of TA contraction while M1 anodal tDCS decreased the same when compared to sham tDCS, 2. Offline M1 anodal tDCS increased the delay in termination of TA contraction when compared to cerebellar anodal tDCS or sham tDCS. Moreover, online cerebellar anodal tDCS decreased the learning rate during 'proportional EMG control’ when compared to M1 anodal and sham tDCS.
The preliminary results from healthy subjects showed specific, and at least partially antagonistic effects, of M1 and cerebellar anodal tDCS on motor performance during myoelectric control. These results are encouraging, but further studies are necessary to better define how tDCS over particular regions of the cerebellum may facilitate learning of myoelectric control for brain machine interfaces.