Modulating hemispheric lateralization by brain stimulation yields gain in mental and physical activity
Zich C., Harty S., Kranczioch C., Mansfield K., Sella F., Debener S., Cohen Kadosh R.
Imagery plays an important role in our life. Motor imagery is the mental simulation of a motor act without overt motor output. Previous studies have documented the effect of motor imagery practice. However, its translational potential for patients as well as for athletes, musicians and other groups, depends largely on the transfer from mental practice to overt physical performance. We used bilateral transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over sensorimotor areas to modulate neural lateralization patterns induced by unilateral mental motor imagery and the performance of a physical motor task. Twenty-six healthy older adults participated (mean age = 67.1 years) in a double-blind cross-over sham-controlled study. We found stimulation-related changes at the neural and behavioural level, which were polarity-dependent. Specifically, for the hand contralateral to the anode, electroencephalographic activity induced by motor imagery was more lateralized and motor performance improved. In contrast, for the hand contralateral to the cathode, hemispheric lateralization was reduced. The stimulation-related increase and decrease in neural lateralization were negatively related. Further, the degree of stimulation-related change in neural lateralization correlated with the stimulation-related change on behavioural level. These convergent neurophysiological and behavioural effects underline the potential of tDCS to improve mental and physical motor performance.