Single session transcranial direct current stimulation to the primary motor cortex fails to enhance early motor sequence learning in Parkinson's disease

Michael William Simpson, Margaret Mak (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Introduction: Explicit motor sequence learning is impaired in Parkinson's disease (PD). Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied over the motor cortex in healthy can improve explicit motor learning, but comparative effects in PD are unknown. This exploratory study aims to examine the effect of single session tDCS on explicit motor sequence learning in PD. Methods: Thirty-three people with mild to moderate PD learnt a short and long finger tapping sequence with their right hand. Participants received either anodal, cathodal, or sham tDCS applied over the left primary motor cortex during task practice. Single- and dual-task finger tapping performance was assessed before and after task practice and functional near-infrared spectroscopy used to measure task related changes of oxygenated haemoglobin. Results: Finger tapping performance of short and long sequences under single-task conditions significantly improved following practice (p = 0.010 and p < 0.001, respectively). A condition-by-time interaction trend was observed for the long finger tapping sequence (p = 0.069) driven by improved performance in the cathodal (p = 0.001) and sham (p < 0.001) tDCS conditions, but not anodal tDCS (p = 0.198). The primary and premotor cortex and supplementary motor area were active in all tasks. No interaction or main effects were observed for task related changes of oxygenated haemoglobin. Conclusions: PD patients retain the capacity to learn an explicit sequence of movements. Motor cortex tDCS does not improve explicit motor learning in PD and anodal tDCS may even suppress the rate of learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113624
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2022


  • Functional near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Motor cortex
  • Motor sequence learning
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this