loading page

Dose-dependent response of prefrontal transcranial direct current stimulation on heart rate variability: an electric field modeling study
  • +5
  • Lais Razza,
  • Stefanie De Smet,
  • Stevan Nikolin,
  • Xander Cornelis,
  • Matias Pulopulos,
  • Rudi De Raedt,
  • André Brunoni,
  • Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt
Lais Razza
Ghent University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Stefanie De Smet
UZ Gent
Author Profile
Stevan Nikolin
Univ New South Wales
Author Profile
Xander Cornelis
Ghent University
Author Profile
Matias Pulopulos
Ghent University Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Author Profile
Rudi De Raedt
Author Profile
André Brunoni
Universidade de São Paulo
Author Profile
Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt
Ghent University
Author Profile


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) modulates the autonomic nervous system by activating deeper brain areas via top-down pathway. However, effects on the nervous system are heterogeneous and may depend on the amount of current that penetrates the brain due to individual brain anatomical differences. Therefore, investigated the variable effects of tDCS on heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of the functional state of the autonomic nervous system. Using three prefrontal tDCS protocols (1.5mA, 3mA and sham), we associated the simulated individual electric field (E-field) magnitude in brain regions of interest with the HRV effects. This was a randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled and within-subject trial, in which participants received tDCS sessions separated by two weeks. The brain regions of interest were the dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC), anterior cingulate cortex, insula and amygdala. Overall, 37 participants (mean age = 24.3 years, standard deviation = 4.8) were investigated, corresponding to a total of 111 tDCS sessions. The findings suggested that HRV, measured by Root Mean Squared of Successive Differences (RMSSD) and high-frequency HRV (HF-HRV), were significantly increased by the 3.0mA tDCS when compared to sham and 1.5mA. No difference was found between sham and 1.5mA. E-field analysis showed that all brain regions of interest were associated with the HRV outcomes. However, this significance was associated with the protocol intensity, rather than inter-individual anatomical variability. To conclude, our results suggest a dose-dependent effect of tDCS for HRV. Therefore, further research is warranted to investigate the optimal current dose to HRV.
04 Sep 2023Submitted to Psychophysiology
05 Sep 2023Assigned to Editor
05 Sep 2023Submission Checks Completed
05 Sep 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Oct 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned