Enhancement of multitasking performance and neural oscillations by transcranial alternating current stimulation.

Research paper by Wan-Yu WY Hsu, Theodore P TP Zanto, Martine R MR van Schouwenburg, Adam A Gazzaley

Indexed on: 01 Jun '17Published on: 01 Jun '17Published in: PloS one


Multitasking is associated with the generation of stimulus-locked theta (4-7 Hz) oscillations arising from prefrontal cortex (PFC). Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that influences endogenous brain oscillations. Here, we investigate whether applying alternating current stimulation within the theta frequency band would affect multitasking performance, and explore tACS effects on neurophysiological measures. Brief runs of bilateral PFC theta-tACS were applied while participants were engaged in a multitasking paradigm accompanied by electroencephalography (EEG) data collection. Unlike an active control group, a tACS stimulation group showed enhancement of multitasking performance after a 90-minute session (F1,35 = 6.63, p = 0.01, ηp2 = 0.16; effect size = 0.96), coupled with significant modulation of posterior beta (13-30 Hz) activities (F1,32 = 7.66, p = 0.009, ηp2 = 0.19; effect size = 0.96). Across participant regression analyses indicated that those participants with greater increases in frontal theta, alpha and beta oscillations exhibited greater multitasking performance improvements. These results indicate frontal theta-tACS generates benefits on multitasking performance accompanied by widespread neuronal oscillatory changes, and suggests that future tACS studies with extended treatments are worth exploring as promising tools for cognitive enhancement.