tDCS during Virtual Reality Exposure.

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Simultaneous Application of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation during Virtual Reality Exposure.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a form of non-invasive brain stimulation that changes the likelihood of neuronal firing through modulation of neural resting membranes. Compared to other techniques, tDCS is relatively safe, cost-effective, and can be administered while individuals are engaged in controlled, specific cognitive processes. This latter point is important as tDCS may predominantly affect intrinsically active neural regions. In an effort to test tDCS as a potential treatment for psychiatric illness, the protocol described here outlines a novel procedure that allows the simultaneous application of tDCS during exposure to trauma-related cues using virtual reality (tDCS+VR) for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (NCT03372460). In this double-blind protocol, participants are assigned to either receive 2 mA tDCS, or sham stimulation, for 25 minutes while passively watching three 8-minute standardized virtual reality drives through Iraq or Afghanistan, with virtual reality events increasing in intensity during each drive. Participants undergo six sessions of tDCS+VR over the course of 2-3 weeks, and psychophysiology (skin conductance reactivity) is measured throughout each session. This allows testing for within and between session changes in hyperarousal to virtual reality events and adjunctive effects of tDCS. Stimulation is delivered through a built-in rechargeable battery-driven tDCS device using a 1 (anode) x 1 (cathode) unilateral electrode set-up. Each electrode is placed in a 3 x 3 cm (current density 2.22 A/m2) reusable sponge pocket saturated with 0.9% normal saline. Sponges with electrodes are attached to the participant’s skull using a rubber headband with the electrodes placed such that they target regions within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The virtual reality headset is placed over the tDCS montage in such a way as to avoid electrode interference.

PMID: 33522512 [PubMed – in process]

J Vis Exp. 2021 Jan 18;(167):

Authors: van ‘t Wout-Frank M, Philip NS