Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stim-ulation method that is frequently used to study cortical excitability changes and their impact on cognitive functions in humans. While most stimulators are capable of operating in double-blind mode, the amount of discomfort ex-perienced during tDCS may break blinding. Therefore, specifically designed sham stimulation protocols are being used. The "fade-in, short-stimulation, fade-out" (FSF) protocol has been used in hundreds of studies and is com-monly believed to be indistinguishable from real stimulation applied at 1 mA for 20 minutes. We analyzed subjective reports of 192 volunteers, who either received real tDCS (n=96) or FSF tDCS (n=96). Participants reported more discomfort for real tDCS and correctly guessed the condition above chance-level. These findings indicate that FSF does not ensure complete blinding and that better active sham protocols are needed. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
- Active sham