Stimulating the aberrant brain: Evidence for increased cortical hyperexcitability from a transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) study of individuals predisposed to anomalous perceptions.
The issue of interictal excitability of cortical neurons in migraine patients is controversial: some studies have reported hypo-, others hyperexcitability. The aim of the present study was to observe the dynamics of this basic interictal state by further modulating the excitability level of the visual cortex using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in migraineurs with and without aura. In healthy subjects anodal tDCS decreases, cathodal stimulation increases transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-elicited phosphene thresholds (PT), which is suggested as a representative value of visual cortex excitability. Compared with healthy controls, migraine patients tended to show lower baseline PT values, but this decrease failed to reach statistical significance. Anodal stimulation decreased phosphene threshold in migraineurs similarly to controls, having a larger effect in migraineurs with aura. Cathodal stimulation had no significant effect in the patient groups. This result strengthens the notion of deficient inhibitory processes in the cortex of migraineurs, which is selectively revealed by activity-modulating cortical input.