The Effect of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Changing Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Patients With Neurological Disorders: A Systematic Review

Mei Yan Chan, Yvonne Ming Yee Han (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review


People with neurological disorders are found to have abnormal resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC), which is associated with the persistent functional impairment found in these patients. Recently, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to improve rsFC, although the results are inconsistent.

We hope to explore whether tDCS induces rsFC changes among patients with neurological disorders, whether rsFC is clinically relevant and how different tDCS parameters affect rsFC outcome among these individuals.

A systematic review was conducted according to PRISMA guidelines (systematic review registration number: CRD42020168654). Randomized controlled trials that studied the tDCS effects on rsFC between the experimental and sham-controlled groups using either electrophysiological or neuroimaging methods were included.

Active tDCS can induce changes in both localized (ie, brain regions under the transcranial electrodes) and diffused (ie, brain regions not directly influenced by the transcranial electrodes) rsFC. Interestingly, fMRI studies showed that the default mode network was enhanced regardless of patients’ diagnoses, the stimulation paradigms used or the rsFC analytical methods employed. Second, stimulation intensity, but not total stimulation time, appeared to positively influence the effect of tDCS on rsFC.

Limitations and conclusion:
Due to the inherent heterogeneity in rsFC analytical methods and tDCS protocols, meta-analysis was not conducted. We recommend that future studies may investigate the effect of tDCS on rsFC for repeated cathodal stimulation. For clinicians, we suggest anodal stimulation at a higher stimulation intensity within the safety limit may maximize tDCS effects in modulating aberrant functional connectivity of patients with neurological disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1179573520976832
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Central Nervous System Disease
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020

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