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Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation: A potential treatment for chronic pain

Tsovilis, Ekaterini (2019) Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation: A potential treatment for chronic pain. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Purpose: Current treatments available for chronic pain either do not provide patients with adequate pain relief, are invasive, expensive or cause negative side effects. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) delivered to the primary motor cortex (M1) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) brain regions has been identified as a potential treatment. However, the literature regarding is effectiveness is mixed. This study aimed to clarify if tDCS at M1 and DLPFC reduces healthy participants’ pain. In addition, it aimed to identify whether simultaneous stimulation of M1 and DLPFC results in greater pain reduction than stimulation at one cortical site alone.

Method: A randomized, crossover, within-subjects, double-blinded sham controlled design was utilized. Twenty healthy participants (10 female; aged 18 to 59) underwent four conditions, 20 minutes of 1 mA anodal tDCS at M1 and DLPFC concurrently, M1, DLPFC and sham. A low-frequency electrical current administered to participants’ right volar forearm induced pain. Pain was assessed pre and post tDCS by pain ratings to pinprick and the electrical current level required during electrical stimulation to induce moderate level pain.

Results: Analysis revealed a significant difference between pre and post tDCS pain assessment, however, this difference was present irrespective of tDCS condition. Participant habituation to low-frequency electrical stimulation may explain these results.

Conclusions: TDCS within this study did not reduce healthy participants’ pain. This study identified methodological considerations and tDCS parameters that should be implemented in future replication studies to further explore tDCS as a potential chronic pain treatment.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Supervisor(s): Vo, Lechi
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