The left posterior inferior frontal gyrus in the prefrontal cortex is a key region for phonological aspects of language processing. A previous study has shown that alpha-tACS over the prefrontal cortex applied before task processing facilitated phonological decision-making and increased task-related theta power. However, it is unclear how alpha-tACS affects phonological processing when applied directly during the task. Moreover, the frequency specificity of this effect is also unclear since the majority of neurostimulation studies tested a single frequency only. The present study addressed the question whether and how 10 Hz online tACS affects phonological decisions. To this end, 24 healthy participants received tACS at 10 Hz or 16.18 Hz (control frequency) or sham stimulation over the left prefrontal cortex during task processing in three sessions. As an unexpected finding, 16.18 Hz significantly impaired task accuracy relative to sham stimulation, without affecting response speed. There was no significant difference in phonological task performance between 10 Hz and 16.18 Hz tACS or between 10 Hz and sham stimulation. Our results support the functional relevance of the left prefrontal cortex for phonological decisions and suggest that online beta-tACS may modulate language comprehension.
Neuroscience. 2021 Mar 12:S0306-4522(21)00118-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2021.03.002. Online ahead of print.