Direct Current Stimulation Modulates Synaptic Facilitation via Distinct Presynaptic Calcium Channels

Sreerag Othayoth Vasu, Hanoch Kaphzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a subthreshold neurostimulation technique known for ameliorating neuropsychiatric conditions. The principal mechanism of tDCS is the differential polarization of subcellular neuronal compartments, particularly the axon terminals that are sensitive to external electrical fields. Yet, the underlying mechanism of tDCS is not fully clear. Here, we hypothesized that direct current stimulation (DCS)-induced modulation of presynaptic calcium channel conductance alters axon terminal dynamics with regard to synaptic vesicle release. To examine the involvement of calcium-channel subtypes in tDCS, we recorded spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) from cortical layer-V pyramidal neurons under DCS while selectively inhibiting distinct subtypes of voltage-dependent calcium channels. Blocking P/Q or N-type calcium channels occluded the effects of DCS on sEPSCs, demonstrating their critical role in the process of DCS-induced modulation of spontaneous vesicle release. However, inhibiting T-type calcium channels did not occlude DCS-induced modulation of sEPSCs, suggesting that despite being active in the subthreshold range, T-type calcium channels are not involved in the axonal effects of DCS. DCS modulates synaptic facilitation by regulating calcium channels in axon terminals, primarily via controlling P/Q and N-type calcium channels, while T-type calcium channels are not involved in this mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16866
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number23
StatePublished - 28 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • axon terminals
  • calcium channels
  • subthreshold
  • tDCS
  • weak electrical fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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