Changes in Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor from Active and Sham Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis

Robert Suchting, Antonio L. Teixeira, Brian Ahn, Gabriela D. Colpo, Juyoung Park, Hyochol Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: Previous work has shown effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on clinical pain measures, qualitative sensory testing measures, and peripheral inflammation. The present report extends this research to investigate the effect of tDCS on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. Materials and Methods: This secondary analysis examined a sample of 40 older adults (50 to 70 y old) with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis randomly assigned in a 1:1 fashion to active (n=20) or sham (n=20) tDCS for 20 minutes on 5 consecutive days. BDNF was measured before the first session and after the final treatment session. Generalized linear modeling evaluated BDNF plasma levels as a function of tDCS group, adjusted for baseline. Bayesian statistical inference was used to quantify the probability that effects of the treatment exist. Results: Generalized linear modeling indicated a 90.4% posterior probability that the sham condition had 49.9% higher BDNF at the end of treatment, controlling for baseline. Follow-up analyses within the active TDCS group supported an association between change in BDNF and change in clinical pain, and exploratory analyses found an effect of tDCS on irisin. Discussion: Results indicated that tDCS could be a potential nonpharmacological treatment to decrease BDNF levels, which may in turn decrease pain. This study adds to a growing literature suggesting that tDCS affects cortical excitability, and consequentially, the neural circuits implicated in pain modulation. In addition to a direct connection to analgesia, BDNF changes may reflect tDCS-induced changes in different cortical areas and/or neural circuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-903
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • BDNF
  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • knee osteoarthritis
  • transcranial direct current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Changes in Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor from Active and Sham Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this