Effects of tDCS-like electrical stimulation on retinal ganglion cells

Christianne E. Strang, Mary Katherine Ray, Mary M. Boggiano, Franklin R. Amthor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been studied in humans for its effects on enhancement of learning, amelioration of psychiatric disorders, and modification of other behaviors for over 50 years. Typical treatments involve injecting 2 mA current through scalp electrodes for 20 minutes, sometimes repeated weekly for two to five sessions. Little is known about the direct effects of tDCS at the neural circuit or the cellular level. This study assessed the effects of tDCS-like currents on the central nervous system by recording effects on retinal ganglion cell responsiveness using the rabbit retina eyecup preparation. Materials and methods: We examined changes in firing to On and Off light stimuli during and after brief applications of a range of currents and polarity and in different classes of ganglion cells. Results: The responses of Sustained cells were consistently suppressed during the first round of current application, but responses could be enhanced after subsequent rounds of stimulation. The observed first round suppression was independent of current polarity, amplitude, or number of trials. However, the light responses of Transient cells were more likely to be enhanced by negative currents and unaffected or suppressed by first round positive currents. Short-duration currents, that is, minutes, as low as 2.5 µA produced a remarkable persistency of firing changes, for up to 1.5 hours, after cessation of current. Conclusion: The results are consistent with postulated tDCS alteration of central nervous system function, which outlast the tDCS session and provide evidence for the isolated retina as a useful model to understand tDCS actions at the neuronal level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
JournalEye and Brain
StatePublished - 2018


  • CNS
  • In vitro model
  • Neural coding
  • Neuromodulation
  • tDCS mechanisms


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