Enhanced locomotor adaptation aftereffect in the "broken escalator" phenomenon using anodal tDCS

D Kaski, S Quadir, M Patel, N Yousif, A M Bronstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


The everyday experience of stepping onto a stationary escalator causes a stumble, despite our full awareness that the escalator is broken. In the laboratory, this "broken escalator" phenomenon is reproduced when subjects step onto an obviously stationary platform (AFTER trials) that was previously experienced as moving (MOVING trials) and attests to a process of motor adaptation. Given the critical role of M1 in upper limb motor adaptation and the potential for transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to increase cortical excitability, we hypothesized that anodal tDCS over leg M1 and premotor cortices would increase the size and duration of the locomotor aftereffect. Thirty healthy volunteers received either sham or real tDCS (anodal bihemispheric tDCS; 2 mA for 15 min at rest) to induce excitatory effects over the primary motor and premotor cortex before walking onto the moving platform. The real tDCS group, compared with sham, displayed larger trunk sway and increased gait velocity in the first AFTER trial and a persistence of the trunk sway aftereffect into the second AFTER trial. We also used transcranial magnetic stimulation to probe changes in cortical leg excitability using different electrode montages and eyeblink conditioning, before and after tDCS, as well as simulating the current flow of tDCS on the human brain using a computational model of these different tDCS montages. Our data show that anodal tDCS induces excitability changes in lower limb motor cortex with resultant enhancement of locomotor adaptation aftereffects. These findings might encourage the use of tDCS over leg motor and premotor regions to improve locomotor control in patients with neurological gait disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2493-505
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electrodes
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult


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