Single-session anodal transcranial direct current stimulation to enhance sport-specific performance in athletes: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has emerged as a promising and feasible method to improve motor performance in healthy and clinical populations. However, the potential of tDCS to enhance sport-specific motor performance in athletes remains elusive. We aimed at analyzing the acute effects of a single anodal tDCS session on sport-specific motor performance changes in athletes compared to sham. A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted in the electronic databases PubMed,
... b of Science, and SPORTDiscus. The meta-analysis was performed using an inverse variance method and a random-effects model. Additionally, two subgroup analyses were conducted (1) depending on the stimulated brain areas (primary motor cortex (M1), temporal cortex (TC), prefrontal cortex (PFC), cerebellum (CB)), and (2) studies clustered in subgroups according to different sports performance domains (endurance, strength, visuomotor skill). A total number of 19 studies enrolling a sample size of 258 athletes were deemed eligible for inclusion. Across all included studies, a significant moderate standardized mean difference (SMD) favoring anodal tDCS to enhance sport-specific motor performance could be observed. Subgroup analysis depending on cortical target areas of tDCS indicated a significant moderate SMD in favor of anodal tDCS compared to sham for M1 stimulation. A single anodal tDCS session can lead to performance enhancement in athletes in sport-specific motor tasks. Although no definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding the modes of action as a function of performance domain or stimulation site, these results imply intriguing possibilities concerning sports performance enhancement through anodal M1 stimulation.