Causal examinations of the attention-motor interface in gait and falls

Study Purpose: The study will explore how the brain areas important for attention and short-term memory might be contributing to some of the movement issues seen in persons with Parkinson's Disease. In this study, we are assessing transiently altering activity in certain regions of the brain with non-invasive brain stimulation to see if it might improve movement in Parkinson's Disease.

Who is eligible: Adults between the ages of 45 - 91 who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease based on the recent movement disorder society criteria

What to expect: Up to 5 separate sessions scheduled 2-7 days apart and lasting up to 2 hours each. Sessions will be separated into several separate blocks to allow participants time to rest in between. The first session will include a standard clinical evaluation. The subsequent four sessions will involve either a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that will measure brain activity and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in order to stimulate parts of your brain. All sessions will assess your performance on several cognitive and movement tasks on a computer screen using a mouse, keyboard and/or other response devices.

Time commitment: Up to 5 sessions over the course of 3-4 weeks. Each session lasts up to 2 hours and sessions will be scheduled at least 3 days apart.

Compensation: Up to $250.

Recruitment status: Recruiting now! Please complete the pre-screening questionnaire and we get back with you soon.

Collaboration: Dr Taraz Lee, director of the CoCoA Lab, is the principal investigator for the study [co-Investigators Dr. Michael Vesia and Dr. Roger Albin].

IRBMED HUM00203427Date of approval: 11/04/2021

What are TMS and tDCS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) are both forms of non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS). This process is considered non-invasive because it does not involve placing anything under your skin or inside your body.


TMS involves sending magnetic fields into a person’s brain to stimulate nerve cells. Using TMS to stimulate the brain and measure brain activity is not currently FDA-approved for healthy people and is considered experimental.

Before testing, we will place electrodes on the skin of your hands. These electrodes will record muscle activity from your hands. A device called a coil will rest on your head, as shown here in the picture. We will send an electric current through the coil to create a magnetic field. The magnetic field will pass through your skin and skull and into your brain. You will not feel the magnetic field, and it will not hurt or damage your body. During this part of the experiment, you will hear a click, and it may feel like someone has lightly tapped your head. We will determine the intensity of stimulation needed for you; this is because everyone’s brain is different.

You will be seated in a chair with your arms placed in molded hand rests during the experiment. We will place one coil over the part of your brain called the motor cortex. We will place a second coil over a different part of your brain involved in planning voluntary hand movements. During the TMS procedure, you will experience slight twitching and muscle contractions in your arm and hand. During stimulation, we will measure your hand muscle activity through the electrodes. We will use TMS to study the excitability of the two parts of your brain and how different regions of your brain send commands to your hand muscles.


tDCS involves sending a weak electrical current through the brain via electrodes attached to the scalp. The tDCS device used in this study has not received FDA approval and is limited to investigational use in the US.

We will apply tDCS using a battery-operated stimulator delivered through a pair of saline soaked surface sponge electrodes or gelled electrodes placed in holes of a neoprene cap (see picture) for ~20 minutes. You might feel a slight itch under the electrode. This is normal, and it will not hurt or damage your body. During the tDCS procedure, you likely will experience a tingling sensation on the scalp where electrodes are attached; this tingling sensation usually diminishes after several seconds. The goal of the tDCS portion of our study is to determine the roles of brain regions used to control hand movement, by measuring behavior and brain activity during stimulation.

When we remove the electrodes, a small amount of gel may remain in your hair; this generally comes out easily with water and shampoo.

Brain Behavior Lab

Kinesiology Building


at the Kinesiology Building

Functional MRI Laboratory

Bonisteel Building