Brain polarization enhances the formation and retention of motor memories

Joseph M Galea, Pablo Celnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


One of the first steps in the acquisition of a new motor skill is the formation of motor memories. Here we tested the capacity of transcranial DC stimulation (tDCS) applied over the motor cortex during motor practice to increase motor memory formation and retention. Nine healthy individuals underwent a crossover transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study designed to test motor memory formation resulting from training. Anodal tDCS elicited an increase in the magnitude and duration of motor memories in a polarity-specific manner, as reflected by changes in the kinematic characteristics of TMS-evoked movements after anodal, but not cathodal or sham stimulation. This effect was present only when training and stimulation were associated and mediated by a differential modulation of corticomotor excitability of the involved muscles. These results indicate that anodal brain polarization can enhance the initial formation and retention of a new motor memory resulting from training. These processes may be the underlying mechanisms by which tDCS enhances motor learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-301
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Motor Cortex
  • Movement
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Random Allocation
  • Reaction Time
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult


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