The role of axonal voltage-gated potassium channels in tDCS

Sreerag Othayoth Vasu, Hanoch Kaphzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive sub-threshold stimulation, widely accepted for its amelioration of distinct neuropsychiatric disorders. The weak electric field of tDCS modulates the activity of cortical neurons, which in turn modifies brain functioning. However, the underlying mechanisms for that are not fully understood. Objective/Hypothesis: Previous studies demonstrated that the axons are the most sensitive subcellular compartment for tDCS-induced polarization. Moreover, it was posited that DCS-induced axonal polarization is amplified by modifying the conductance of ionic channels. We posit that voltage-gated potassium-channels that are highly expressed in axons play a crucial role in DCS-induced modulation of cortical neurons functioning. Methods: We examined the involvement of voltage-gated potassium-channels in the active modulation of spontaneous vesicle release by DCS. For that, we measured spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) from layer-V motor cortex during DCS application, while co-applying distinct voltage-gated potassium-channels blockers. Moreover, we examined the role of Kv1 potassium channels in DCS-induced modulation of action potential waveform at axon terminals by recording action potentials at terminal axon blebs during DCS application while locally inhibiting the Kv1 potassium-channels. Results: We demonstrated that inhibiting voltage-gated potassium-channels occluded the DCS-induced modulation of subthreshold presynaptic vesicle release. Moreover, we showed that inhibiting Kv1 voltage-gated potassium-channels also occluded the DCS-induced modulation of action potential waveform at axon terminals. Conclusion: We suggest that DCS-induced depolarization inactivates the Kv1 potassium channels thus reducing potassium conductance, which amplifies axonal depolarization, subsequently enhancing the presynaptic component of synaptic transmission. Whereas DCS-induced hyperpolarization induces opposite effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-869
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Axon terminals
  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Enhanced polarization
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Neurostimulation
  • Potassium channels
  • tDCS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Biophysics
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of axonal voltage-gated potassium channels in tDCS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this