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The influence of a single transcranial direct current stimulation session on physical fitness in healthy subjects: a systematic review

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Physical fitness is of indisputable importance for both health, and sports. Currently, the brain is being increasingly recognized as a contributor to physical fitness. Hereby, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), as an ergogenic aid, has gained scientific interest. The current PRISMA-adherent review aimed to examine the effect of tDCS on the three core components of physical fitness: muscle strength, -endurance and cardiopulmonary endurance. Randomized controlled- or cross-over trials evaluating the effect of a single tDCS session (vs. sham) in healthy individuals were included. Hereby, a wide array of tDCS-related factors (e.g., tDCS montage and dose) was taken into account. Thirty-five studies (540 participants) were included. Between-study heterogeneity in factors such as age, activity level, tDCS protocol, and outcome measures was large. The capacity of tDCS to improve physical fitness varied substantially across studies. Nevertheless, muscle endurance was most susceptible to improvements following anodal tDCS (AtDCS), with 69% of studies (n = 11) investigating this core component of physical fitness reporting positive effects. The primary motor cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex were targeted the most, with positive results being reported on muscle and cardiopulmonary endurance. Finally, online tDCS seemed most beneficial, and no clear relationship between tDCS and dose-related parameters seemed present. These findings can contribute to optimizing tDCS interventions during the rehabilitation of patients with a variety of (chronic) diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Therefore, future studies should focus on further unraveling the potential of AtDCS on physical fitness and, more specifically, muscle endurance in both healthy subjects and patients suffering from (chronic) diseases. This study was registered in Prospero with the registration number CRD42021258529. "To enable PROSPERO to focus on COVID-19 registrations during the 2020 pandemic, this registration record was automatically published exactly as submitted. The PROSPERO team has not checked eligibility".
Journal: Experimental Brain Research
ISSN: 0014-4819
Issue: 1
Volume: 241
Pages: 31 - 47
Publication year:2023