PloS one, 2010; 5 (11) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013766
Affiliation: Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg, Germany
Abstract: Non-invasive electrical stimulation of the human cortex by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been instrumental in a number of important discoveries in the field of human cortical function and has become a well-established method for evaluating brain function in healthy human participants. Recently, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) has been introduced to directly modulate the ongoing rhythmic brain activity by the application of oscillatory currents on the human scalp. Until now the efficiency of tACS in modulating rhythmic brain activity has been indicated only by inference from perceptual and behavioural consequences of electrical stimulation. No direct electrophysiological evidence of tACS has been reported. We delivered tACS over the occipital cortex of 10 healthy participants to entrain the neuronal oscillatory activity in their individual alpha frequency range and compared results with those from a separate group of participants receiving sham stimulation. The tACS but not the sham stimulation elevated the endogenous alpha power in parieto-central electrodes of the electroencephalogram. Additionally, in a network of spiking neurons, we simulated how tACS can be affected even after the end of stimulation. The results show that spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) selectively modulates synapses depending on the resonance frequencies of the neural circuits that they belong to. Thus, tACS influences STDP which in turn results in aftereffects upon neural activity.The present findings are the first direct electrophysiological evidence of an interaction of tACS and ongoing oscillatory activity in the human cortex. The data demonstrate the ability of tACS to specifically modulate oscillatory brain activity and show its potential both at fostering knowledge on the functional significance of brain oscillations and for therapeutic application.
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