Recent therapeutic human studies testing transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have shown promising results, although many questions remain unanswered. Translational research with experimental animals is an appropriate framework for investigating its mechanisms of action that are still undetermined. Nevertheless, animal and human studies are often discordant. Our aim was to review tDCS animal studies, examining and comparing their main findings with human studies. We performed a systematic review in Medline and other databases, screening for animal studies in vivo that delivered tDCS. Studies in vitro and using other neuromodulatory techniques were excluded. We extracted data according to Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines for reporting in vivo animal research. Thus, we collected data on sample characteristics (size, gender, weight and specimen) and methodology (experimental procedures, experimental animals, housing and husbandry, as well as analysis). We also collected data on methods for delivering tDCS (location, size, current and current density of electrodes and electrode montage), experimental effects (polarity-, intensity- and after-effects) and safety. Only 12 of 48 potentially eligible studies met our inclusion criteria and were reviewed. Quality assessment reporting was only moderate and studies were heterogeneous regarding tDCS montage methodology, position of active and reference electrodes, and current density used. Nonetheless, almost all studies demonstrated that tDCS had positive immediate and long-lasting effects. Vis-à-vis human trials, animal studies applied higher current densities (34.2 vs. 0.4 A/m2, respectively), preferred extra-cephalic positions for reference electrodes (60% vs. 10%, respectively) and used electrodes with different sizes more often. Potential implications for translational tDCS research are discussed.
©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston