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Purpose: To determine if transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) could be effective for the enhancement of swimming performance or mood state in elite athletes. Methods: Eight male elite triathletes (age = 20 [2] y, maximal oxygen uptake = 71 [4] mL·kg−1·min−1) participated in this crossover, counterbalanced, sham-controlled, double-blind study. Participants received either actual (20 min of anodal stimulation of the motor cortex at 2 mA) or sham tDCS and performed an 800-m swimming test in which rating of perceived exertion and blood lactate response were measured. Mood state (Brunel Mood Scale) was assessed before and after each tDCS session and after the swimming test. Heart-rate variability and central nervous system readiness were assessed before and after each tDCS session. The chances of finding differences between conditions were determined using magnitude-based inferences. Results: A significant and very likely higher Brunel Mood Scale–determined vigor self-perception was found with actual tDCS after the stimulation session (−0.1 [1.2] and 2.0 [2.3] for sham and actual tDCS, respectively; P = .018, effect size = 1.14) and after exercise (−4.1 [2.9] and −0.9 [3.6] for sham and actual tDCS, respectively; P = .022, effect size = 0.98). However, likely trivial and nonsignificant (P > .05) differences were found between conditions in performance (599 [38] s and 596 [39] s, respectively). Unclear and nonsignificant differences were observed between conditions for the rest of the study end points. Conclusions: tDCS elicited a marked increase in vigor self-perception that was maintained after exercise but failed to improve swimming performance in elite triathletes.

Valenzuela and de la Villa are with the Physiology Unit, Dept of Systems Biology, School of Medicine, and Amo, the Electronics Dept, University of Alcalá, Madrid, Spain. Valenzuela, Sánchez-Martínez, Torrontegi, Vázquez-Carrión, and Montalvo are with the Dept of Sport and Health, Spanish Agency for Health Protection in Sport (AEPSAD), Madrid, Spain. Lucia is with the Faculty of Sports Sciences, European University of Madrid, and Research Inst i + 12, Madrid, Spain.

Valenzuela (pedrol.valenzuela@edu.uah.es) is corresponding author.
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