Indexed on: 22 Oct '10Published on: 22 Oct '10Published in: The Journal of Physiology
Alleviating the symptoms of neurological diseases by increasing cortical excitability through transcranial stimulation is an ongoing scientific challenge. Here, we tackle this issue by interfering with high frequency oscillations (80–250 Hz) via external application of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) over the human motor cortex (M1). Twenty-one subjects participated in three different experimental studies and they received on separate days tACS at three frequencies (80 Hz, 140 Hz and 250 Hz) and sham stimulation in a randomized order. tACS with 140 Hz frequency increased M1 excitability as measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation-generated motor evoked potentials (MEPs) during and for up to 1 h after stimulation. Control experiments with sham and 80 Hz stimulation were without any effect, and 250 Hz stimulation was less efficient with a delayed excitability induction and reduced duration. After-effects elicited by 140 Hz stimulation were robust against inversion of test MEP amplitudes seen normally under activation. Stimulation at 140 Hz reduced short interval intracortical inhibition, but left intracortical facilitation, long interval cortical inhibition and cortical silent period unchanged. Implicit motor learning was not facilitated by 140 Hz stimulation. High frequency stimulation in the ripple range is a new promising non-invasive brain stimulation protocol to increase human cortical excitability during and after the end of stimulation.