21 February 2018: Neuromodulation by transcranial alternating current stimulation: myths and mechanisms

Bart Krekelberg
Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience
Rutgers University

Transcranial current stimulation is a promising technique used in clinical trials for the treatment of numerous neurological pathologies, including depression, stroke, and epilepsy. In healthy humans it is claimed to enhance perception and learning. However, little is known about how small currents applied to the scalp could achieve all of this and some skepticism about these claims is certainly warranted. We investigate the underlying neural mechanisms in mice, monkeys, and humans.

By recording intracranially while stimulating transcranially, we have discovered a range of neural consequences of transcranial alternating current stimulation. The most prominent of these is a reduction in neural adaptation. I will review the evidence to support this claim, while also pointing out a number of other neural changes that cannot easily be described by a single underlying mechanism. The rational development of noninvasive neuromodulation requires acknowledging and understanding the multiplicity of effects induced by transcranial current stimulation.