tACS entrains single-neuron activity in the primate brain.

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Transcranial alternating current stimulation entrains single-neuron activity in the primate brain.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Mar 04;:

Authors: Krause MR, Vieira PG, Csorba BA, Pilly PK, Pack CC

Spike timing is thought to play a critical role in neural computation and communication. Methods for adjusting spike timing are therefore of great interest to researchers and clinicians alike. Transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) is a noninvasive technique that uses weak electric fields to manipulate brain activity. Early results have suggested that this technique can improve subjects’ behavioral performance on a wide range of tasks and ameliorate some clinical conditions. Nevertheless, considerable skepticism remains about its efficacy, especially because the electric fields reaching the brain during tES are small, whereas the likelihood of indirect effects is large. Our understanding of its effects in humans is largely based on extrapolations from simple model systems and indirect measures of neural activity. As a result, fundamental questions remain about whether and how tES can influence neuronal activity in the human brain. Here, we demonstrate that tES, as typically applied to humans, affects the firing patterns of individual neurons in alert nonhuman primates, which are the best available animal model for the human brain. Specifically, tES consistently influences the timing, but not the rate, of spiking activity within the targeted brain region. Such effects are frequency- and location-specific and can reach deep brain structures; control experiments show that they cannot be explained by sensory stimulation or other indirect influences. These data thus provide a strong mechanistic rationale for the use of tES in humans and will help guide the development of future tES applications.

PMID: 30833389 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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