Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Reduces Competitive Anxiety and Modulates Heart Rate Variability in an eSports Player

Sergio Machado1, 2, 3, *, Leandro de Oliveira Sant’Ana4, Bruno Travassos2, 5, 6, Diogo Monteiro5, 7, 8
1 Department of Sports Methods and Techniques, Federal University of Santa Maria, Santa Maria, Brazil
2 Department of Sports Science, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, 6201-001, Portugal
3 Laboratory of Physical Activity Neuroscience, Neurodiversity Institute, Queimados, 26325-020, Brazil
4 Postgraduate Program in Physical Education, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora, Brazil
5 Research Center in Sport, Health and Human Development (CIDESD), Vila Real 5000-558, Portugal
6 Portugal Football School, Portuguese Football Federation, Cruz 1495-433, Quebrada, Portugal
7 Life Quality Research Center (CIEQV), Rio Maior, 2040-413, Portugal
8 ESECS, Polytechnic of Leiria, Leiria, 2411-901, Portugal

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Creative Commons License
© 2022 Machado et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Sports Science, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã 6201-001, Portugal; E-mail: secm80@gmail.com


Previous research has recently shown that high cognitive and somatic anxiety and low self-confidence, before and during sport competitions have a significant correlation with heart rate variability (HRV) changes and can reduce overall athletic performance. Therefore, interventions, such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), can be a potential tool to reduce psychophysiological anxiety-related and enhance athletic performance. We present a case of a male professional athlete of eSports. We explored the effects of a single session of anodal tDCS (a-tDCS) at 2mA over the dosrsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on competitive anxiety and HRV assessed in baseline (BL), pre-tDCS, post-tDCS and post-game moments and compared between moments. Here, we found a decrease in somatic and cognitive anxiety, as well as an increase in self-confidence and in SDNN index in the post-tDCS moment compared with BL, pre-tDCS and post-game moments. These findings can be a result of an acute change in the attentional state, influencing the processing of threatening information essential for cognitive anxiety and of a self-regulatory process, which can regulate physiological arousal response, such as HRV.

Keywords: Anxiety, Dosrsolateral prefrontal cortex, Heart rate variability, HRV, Transcranial direct current stimulation, tDCS.