A pinboard by
Brenton Hordacre

NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow, The University of South Australia


Characteristics of the brain can help tailor therapies in stroke

Stroke is a global leading cause of disability requiring extensive and lengthy periods of rehabilitation aimed at restoring function. Therapies which help people recovery following stroke utilise the brains unique ability to learn and change - known as neuroplasticity. Function of the damaged brain area is taken over by nearby brain regions and can help compensate for the injury. However, despite this intriguing ability of the brain, recovery following stroke is often incomplete, with survivors forced to life with lifelong impairments such as arm or leg weakness, difficulty with speech or cognitive issues. Treatments which improve the level of recovery by enhancing the neuroplasticity process would be highly valued by patients, family members and health service providers as it may provide a more complete and efficient recovery.

One approach is to stimulate the brain tissue with an electric current. Several studies have shown that brain stimulation is able to increase brain activity and improve recovery following stroke. However, this approach does not appear to be one-size-fits-all with recent studies reporting a high level of variability in response to brain stimulation. As a result, brain stimulation does not provide a reliable and consistent response across all stroke survivors and this has limited any possibility of this treatment being used clinically. It is perhaps unreasonable to assume that one therapy approach could be used as a ‘magic bullet’ and be suitable for every individual since each brain is unique as a result of different life experiences, genetics or characteristics of the injury.

My research investigates neural characteristics following stroke that predict response to brain stimulation therapy. A series of studies will be presented at the World Congress for Neurorehabilitation which will show that brain connectivity following stroke can predict, with a high level of accuracy, who will respond to brain stimulation and who won’t. The significance of this work lies in the opportunity to harness the full potential of brain stimulation by specifically targeting the patients who will benefit most from this therapy. The ability to do so could assist clinical uptake of brain stimulation as a treatment and assist those patients who are desperate for a greater level of recovery. This body of work is an exciting and novel advance in brain stimulation therapy for stroke and has potential to accelerate clinical translation of this treatment.


Neural substrates underlying motor skill learning in chronic hemiparetic stroke patients.

Abstract: Motor skill learning is critical in post-stroke motor recovery, but little is known about its underlying neural substrates. Recently, using a new visuomotor skill learning paradigm involving a speed/accuracy trade-off in healthy individuals we identified three subpopulations based on their behavioral trajectories: fitters (in whom improvement in speed or accuracy coincided with deterioration in the other parameter), shifters (in whom speed and/or accuracy improved without degradation of the other parameter), and non-learners. We aimed to identify the neural substrates underlying the first stages of motor skill learning in chronic hemiparetic stroke patients and to determine whether specific neural substrates were recruited in shifters versus fitters. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 23 patients learned the visuomotor skill with their paretic upper limb. In the whole-group analysis, correlation between activation and motor skill learning was restricted to the dorsal prefrontal cortex of the damaged hemisphere (DLPFCdamh: r = -0.82) and the dorsal premotor cortex (PMddamh: r = 0.70); the correlations was much lesser (-0.16 < r > 0.25) in the other regions of interest. In a subgroup analysis, significant activation was restricted to bilateral posterior parietal cortices of the fitters and did not correlate with motor skill learning. Conversely, in shifters significant activation occurred in the primary sensorimotor cortexdamh and supplementary motor areadamh and in bilateral PMd where activation changes correlated significantly with motor skill learning (r = 0.91). Finally, resting-state activity acquired before learning showed a higher functional connectivity in the salience network of shifters compared with fitters (qFDR < 0.05). These data suggest a neuroplastic compensatory reorganization of brain activity underlying the first stages of motor skill learning with the paretic upper limb in chronic hemiparetic stroke patients, with a key role of bilateral PMd.

Pub.: 20 Jun '15, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Quantifying motor recovery after stroke using independent vector analysis and graph-theoretical analysis.

Abstract: The assessment of neuroplasticity after stroke through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis is a developing field where the objective is to better understand the neural process of recovery and to better target rehabilitation interventions. The challenge in this population stems from the large amount of individual spatial variability and the need to summarize entire brain maps by generating simple, yet discriminating features to highlight differences in functional connectivity. Independent vector analysis (IVA) has been shown to provide superior performance in preserving subject variability when compared with widely used methods such as group independent component analysis. Hence, in this paper, graph-theoretical (GT) analysis is applied to IVA-generated components to effectively exploit the individual subjects' connectivity to produce discriminative features. The analysis is performed on fMRI data collected from individuals with chronic stroke both before and after a 6-week arm and hand rehabilitation intervention. Resulting GT features are shown to capture connectivity changes that are not evident through direct comparison of the group t-maps. The GT features revealed increased small worldness across components and greater centrality in key motor networks as a result of the intervention, suggesting improved efficiency in neural communication. Clinically, these results bring forth new possibilities as a means to observe the neural processes underlying improvements in motor function.

Pub.: 25 Jun '15, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Brain effective connectivity during motor-imagery and execution following stroke and rehabilitation.

Abstract: Brain areas within the motor system interact directly or indirectly during motor-imagery and motor-execution tasks. These interactions and their functionality can change following stroke and recovery. How brain network interactions reorganize and recover their functionality during recovery and treatment following stroke are not well understood. To contribute to answering these questions, we recorded blood oxygenation-level dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals from 10 stroke survivors and evaluated dynamical causal modeling (DCM)-based effective connectivity among three motor areas: primary motor cortex (M1), pre-motor cortex (PMC) and supplementary motor area (SMA), during motor-imagery and motor-execution tasks. We compared the connectivity between affected and unaffected hemispheres before and after mental practice and combined mental practice and physical therapy as treatments. The treatment (intervention) period varied in length between 14 to 51 days but all patients received the same dose of 60 h of treatment. Using Bayesian model selection (BMS) approach in the DCM approach, we found that, after intervention, the same network dominated during motor-imagery and motor-execution tasks but modulatory parameters suggested a suppressive influence of SM A on M1 during the motor-imagery task whereas the influence of SM A on M1 was unrestricted during the motor-execution task. We found that the intervention caused a reorganization of the network during both tasks for unaffected as well as for the affected hemisphere. Using Bayesian model averaging (BMA) approach, we found that the intervention improved the regional connectivity among the motor areas during both the tasks. The connectivity between PMC and M1 was stronger in motor-imagery tasks whereas the connectivity from PMC to M1, SM A to M1 dominated in motor-execution tasks. There was significant behavioral improvement (p = 0.001) in sensation and motor movements because of the intervention as reflected by behavioral Fugl-Meyer (FMA) measures, which were significantly correlated (p = 0.05) with a subset of connectivity. These findings suggest that PMC and M1 play a crucial role during motor-imagery as well as during motor-execution task. In addition, M1 causes more exchange of causal information among motor areas during a motor-execution task than during a motor-imagery task due to its interaction with SM A. This study expands our understanding of motor network involved during two different tasks, which are commonly used during rehabilitation following stroke. A clear understanding of the effective connectivity networks leads to a better treatment in helping stroke survivors regain motor ability.

Pub.: 04 Aug '15, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Interindividual differences in motor network connectivity and behavioral response to iTBS in stroke patients.

Abstract: Cerebral plasticity-inducing approaches like repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) are of high interest in situations where reorganization of neural networks can be observed, e.g., after stroke. However, an increasing number of studies suggest that improvements in motor performance of the stroke-affected hand following modulation of primary motor cortex (M1) excitability by rTMS shows a high interindividual variability. We here tested the hypothesis that in stroke patients the interindividual variability of behavioral response to excitatory rTMS is related to interindividual differences in network connectivity of the stimulated region. Chronic stroke patients (n = 14) and healthy controls (n = 12) were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a simple hand motor task. Dynamic causal modeling (DCM) was used to investigate effective connectivity of key motor regions. On two different days after the fMRI experiment, patients received either intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS) over ipsilesional M1 or control stimulation over the parieto-occipital cortex. Motor performance and TMS parameters of cortical excitability were measured before and after iTBS. Our results revealed that patients with better motor performance of the affected hand showed stronger endogenous coupling between supplemental motor area (SMA) and M1 before starting the iTBS intervention. Applying iTBS to ipsilesional M1 significantly increased ipsilesional M1 excitability and decreased contralesional M1 excitability as compared to control stimulation. Individual behavioral improvements following iTBS specifically correlated with neural coupling strengths in the stimulated hemisphere prior to stimulation, especially for connections targeting the stimulated M1. Combining endogenous connectivity and behavioral parameters explained 82% of the variance in hand motor performance observed after iTBS. In conclusion, the data suggest that the individual susceptibility to iTBS after stroke is influenced by interindividual differences in motor network connectivity of the lesioned hemisphere.

Pub.: 28 Jun '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Bidirectional alterations of interhemispheric parietal balance by non-invasive cortical stimulation.

Abstract: Transcranial direct current stimulation is a painless, non-invasive brain stimulation technique that allows one to induce polarity-specific excitability changes in the human brain. Here, we investigated, for the first time in a 'proof of principle' study, the behavioural effect of transcranial direct current stimulation on visuospatial attention in both healthy controls and stroke patients suffering from left visuospatial neglect. We applied anodal, cathoP:dal or sham transcranial direct current stimulation (57 microA/cm(2), 10 min) to the left or right posterior parietal cortex. Using a visual detection task in a group of right-handed healthy individuals (n = 20), we observed that transcranial direct current stimulation enhanced or impaired performance depending on stimulation parameters (i.e. current polarity) and stimulated hemisphere. These results are in good accordance with classic models of reciprocal interhemispheric competition ('rivalry'). In a second experiment, we investigated the potential of transcranial direct current stimulation to ameliorate left visuospatial neglect (n = 10). Interestingly, both the inhibitory effect of cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation applied over the unlesioned posterior parietal cortex and the facilitatory effect of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation applied over the lesioned posterior parietal cortex reduced symptoms of visuospatial neglect. Taken together, our findings suggest that transcranial direct current stimulation applied over the posterior parietal cortex can be used to modulate visuospatial processing and that this effect is exerted by influencing interhemispheric reciprocal networks. These novel findings also suggest that a transcranial direct current stimulation-induced modulation of interhemispheric parietal balance may be used clinically to ameliorate visuospatial attention deficits in neglect patients.

Pub.: 17 Jun '09, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Cortical activation changes underlying stimulation-induced behavioural gains in chronic stroke.

Abstract: Transcranial direct current stimulation, a form of non-invasive brain stimulation, is showing increasing promise as an adjunct therapy in rehabilitation following stroke. However, although significant behavioural improvements have been reported in proof-of-principle studies, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. The rationale for transcranial direct current stimulation as therapy for stroke is that therapeutic stimulation paradigms increase activity in ipsilesional motor cortical areas, but this has not previously been directly tested for conventional electrode placements. This study was performed to test directly whether increases in ipsilesional cortical activation with transcranial direct current stimulation are associated with behavioural improvements in chronic stroke patients. Patients at least 6 months post-first stroke participated in a behavioural experiment (n = 13) or a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment (n = 11), each investigating the effects of three stimulation conditions in separate sessions: anodal stimulation to the ipsilesional hemisphere; cathodal stimulation to the contralesional hemisphere; and sham stimulation. Anodal (facilitatory) stimulation to the ipsilesional hemisphere led to significant improvements (5-10%) in response times with the affected hand in both experiments. This improvement was associated with an increase in movement-related cortical activity in the stimulated primary motor cortex and functionally interconnected regions. Cathodal (inhibitory) stimulation to the contralesional hemisphere led to a functional improvement only when compared with sham stimulation. We show for the first time that the significant behavioural improvements produced by anodal stimulation to the ipsilesional hemisphere are associated with a functionally relevant increase in activity within the ipsilesional primary motor cortex in patients with a wide range of disabilities following stroke.

Pub.: 14 Dec '11, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Neural substrates underlying stimulation-enhanced motor skill learning after stroke.

Abstract: Motor skill learning is one of the key components of motor function recovery after stroke, especially recovery driven by neurorehabilitation. Transcranial direct current stimulation can enhance neurorehabilitation and motor skill learning in stroke patients. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the retention of stimulation-enhanced motor skill learning involving a paretic upper limb have not been resolved. These neural substrates were explored by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging. Nineteen chronic hemiparetic stroke patients participated in a double-blind, cross-over randomized, sham-controlled experiment with two series. Each series consisted of two sessions: (i) an intervention session during which dual transcranial direct current stimulation or sham was applied during motor skill learning with the paretic upper limb; and (ii) an imaging session 1 week later, during which the patients performed the learned motor skill. The motor skill learning task, called the 'circuit game', involves a speed/accuracy trade-off and consists of moving a pointer controlled by a computer mouse along a complex circuit as quickly and accurately as possible. Relative to the sham series, dual transcranial direct current stimulation applied bilaterally over the primary motor cortex during motor skill learning with the paretic upper limb resulted in (i) enhanced online motor skill learning; (ii) enhanced 1-week retention; and (iii) superior transfer of performance improvement to an untrained task. The 1-week retention's enhancement driven by the intervention was associated with a trend towards normalization of the brain activation pattern during performance of the learned motor skill relative to the sham series. A similar trend towards normalization relative to sham was observed during performance of a simple, untrained task without a speed/accuracy constraint, despite a lack of behavioural difference between the dual transcranial direct current stimulation and sham series. Finally, dual transcranial direct current stimulation applied during the first session enhanced continued learning with the paretic limb 1 week later, relative to the sham series. This lasting behavioural enhancement was associated with more efficient recruitment of the motor skill learning network, that is, focused activation on the motor-premotor areas in the damaged hemisphere, especially on the dorsal premotor cortex. Dual transcranial direct current stimulation applied during motor skill learning with a paretic upper limb resulted in prolonged shaping of brain activation, which supported behavioural enhancements in stroke patients.

Pub.: 10 Dec '14, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Modelling the effect of electrode displacement on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

Abstract: Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a neuromodulatory technique that delivers a low-intensity, direct current to cortical areas with the purpose of modulating underlying brain activity. Recent studies have reported inconsistencies in tDCS outcomes. The underlying assumption of many tDCS studies has been that replication of electrode montage equates to replicating stimulation conditions. It is possible however that anatomical difference between subjects, as well as inherent inaccuracies in montage placement, could affect current flow to targeted areas. The hypothesis that stimulation of a defined brain region will be stable under small displacements was tested.&#13; Approach: Initially, we compared the total simulated current flowing through ten specific brain areas for four commonly used tDCS montages: F3-Fp2, C3-Fp2, Fp1-F4, and P3-P4 using the software tool COMETS. The effect of a slight (~1cm in each of four directions) anode displacement on the simulated regional current density for each of the four tDCS montages was then determined. Current flow was calculated and compared through 10 segmented brain areas to determine the effect of montage type and displacement. The regional currents, as well as the localised current densities, were compared with the original electrode location, for each of these new positions. &#13; Results: Recommendations for montages that maximise stimulation current for the ten brain regions are considered. We noted that the extent to which stimulation is affected by electrode displacement varies depending on both area and montage type. The F3-Fp2 montage was found to be the least stable with up to 38% change in average current density in the left frontal lobe while the Fp1-F4 montage was found to the most stable exhibiting only 1% change when electrodes were displaced.&#13; Significance: These results indicate that even relatively small changes in stimulation electrode placement appear to result in surprisingly large changes in current densities and distribution.&#13.

Pub.: 20 Sep '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Changes in transcranial magnetic stimulation outcome measures in response to upper-limb physical training in stroke: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

Abstract: Physical training is known to be an effective intervention to improve sensorimotor impairments after stroke. However, the link between brain plastic changes, assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and sensorimotor recovery in response to physical training is still misunderstood. We systematically reviewed reports of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving the use of TMS over the primary motor cortex (M1) to probe brain plasticity after upper-limb physical training interventions in people with stroke.We searched 5 databases for articles published up to October 2016, with additional studies identified by hand-searching. RCTs had to investigate pre/post-intervention changes in at least one TMS outcome measure. Two independent raters assessed the eligibility of potential studies and reviewed the selected articles' quality by using 2 critical appraisal scales.In total, 14 reports of RCTs (pooled participants=358; mean 26±12 per study) met the selection criteria. Overall, 11 studies detected plastic changes with TMS in the presence of clinical improvements after training, and these changes were more often detected in the affected hemisphere by using map area and motor evoked potential (MEP) latency outcome measures. Plastic changes mostly pointed to increased M1/corticospinal excitability and potential interhemispheric rebalancing of M1 excitability, despite sometimes controversial results among studies. Also, the strength of the review observations was affected by heterogeneous TMS methods and upper-limb interventions across studies as well as several sources of bias within the selected studies.The current evidence encourages the use of TMS outcome measures, especially MEP latency and map area to investigate plastic changes in the brain after upper-limb physical training post-stroke. However, more studies involving rigorous and standardized TMS procedures are needed to validate these observations.

Pub.: 06 Jun '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Repetitive peripheral magnetic stimulation for activities of daily living and functional ability in people after stroke.

Abstract: Repetitive peripheral magnetic stimulation (rPMS) is a form of therapy that creates painless stimulation of deep muscle structures to improve motor function in people with physical impairment from brain or nerve disorders. Use of rPMS for people after stroke has been identified as a feasible approach to improve activities of daily living and functional ability. However, no systematic reviews have assessed the findings of available trials. The effect and safety of this intervention for people after stroke currently remain uncertain.To assess the effect of rPMS for improving activities of daily living and functional ability in people after stroke.We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (August 2016), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2016, Issue 8) in the Cochrane Library (August 2016), MEDLINE Ovid (November 2016), Embase Ovid (August 2016), the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) in Ebsco (August 2016), PsycINFO Ovid (August 2016), the Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) Ovid (August 2016), Occupational Therapy Systematic Evaluation of Evidence (OTseeker) (August 2016), the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) (October 2016), and ICHUSHI Web (October 2016). We also searched five ongoing trial registries, screened reference lists, and contacted experts in the field. We placed no restrictions on the language or date of publication when searching the electronic databases.We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) conducted to assess the therapeutic effect of rPMS for people after stroke. Comparisons eligible for inclusion were (1) active rPMS only compared with 'sham' rPMS (a very weak form of stimulation or a sound only); (2) active rPMS only compared with no intervention; (3) active rPMS plus rehabilitation compared with sham rPMS plus rehabilitation; and (4) active rPMS plus rehabilitation compared with rehabilitation only.Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion. The same review authors assessed methods and risk of bias and extracted data. We contacted trial authors to ask for unpublished information if necessary. We resolved all disagreements through discussion.We included three trials (two RCTs and one cross-over trial) involving 121 participants. Blinding of participants and physicians was well reported in all trials, and overall risk of bias was low. We found no clear effect of rPMS on activities of daily living at the end of treatment (mean difference (MD) -3.00, 95% confidence interval (CI) -16.35 to 10.35; low-quality evidence) and at the end of follow-up (MD -2.00, 95% CI -14.86 to 10.86; low-quality evidence). Investigators in one study with 63 participants observed no statistical difference in improvement of upper limb function at the end of treatment (MD 2.00, 95% CI -4.91 to 8.91) and at the end of follow-up (MD 4.00, 95% CI -2.92 to 10.92). One trial with 18 participants showed that rPMS treatment was not associated with improved muscle strength at the end of treatment (MD 3.00, 95% CI -2.44 to 8.44). Another study reported a significant decrease in spasticity of the elbow at the end of follow-up (MD -0.48, 95% CI -0.93 to -0.03). No studies provided information on lower limb function and death. Based on the GRADE approach, we judged the certainty of evidence related to the primary outcome as low owing to the small sample size of one study.Available trials provided inadequate evidence to permit any conclusions about routine use of rPMS for people after stroke. Additional trials with large sample sizes are needed to determine an appropriate rPMS protocol as well as long-term effects. We identified three ongoing trials and will include these trials in the next review update.

Pub.: 24 Jun '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Combined rTMS and virtual reality brain-computer interface training for motor recovery after stroke.

Abstract: Combining repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) with brain-computer interface (BCI) training can address motor impairment after stroke by down-regulating exaggerated inhibition from the contralesional hemisphere and encouraging ipsilesional activation. The objective was to evaluate the efficacy of combined rTMS+BCI, compared to sham rTMS+BCI, on motor recovery after stroke in subjects with lasting motor paresis.Three stroke subjects approximately one year post-stroke participated in three weeks of combined rTMS (real or sham) and BCI, followed by three weeks of BCI alone. Behavioral and electrophysiological differences were evaluated at baseline, after three weeks, and after six weeks of treatment.Motor improvements were observed in both real rTMS+BCI and sham groups, but only the former showed significant alterations in inter-hemispheric inhibition in the desired direction and increased relative ipsilesional cortical activation from fMRI. In addition, significant improvements in BCI performance over time and adequate control of the virtual reality BCI paradigm were observed only in the former group.When combined, the results highlight the feasibility and efficacy of combined rTMS+BCI for motor recovery, demonstrated by increased ipsilesional motor activity and improvements in behavioral function for the real rTMS+BCI condition in particular. Our findings also demonstrate the utility of BCI training alone, as demonstrated by behavioral improvements for the sham rTMS+BCI condition. This study is the first to evaluate combined rTMS and BCI training for motor rehabilitation and provides a foundation for continued work to evaluate the potential of both rTMS and virtual reality BCI training for motor recovery after stroke.

Pub.: 16 Sep '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Independent Causal Contributions of Alpha- and Beta-Band Oscillations during Movement Selection.

Abstract: To select a movement, specific neuronal populations controlling particular features of that movement need to be activated, whereas other populations are downregulated. The selective (dis)inhibition of cortical sensorimotor populations is governed by rhythmic neural activity in the alpha (8-12 Hz) and beta (15-25 Hz) frequency range. However, it is unclear whether and how these rhythms contribute independently to motor behavior. Building on a recent dissociation of the sensorimotor alpha- and beta-band rhythms, we test the hypothesis that the beta-band rhythm governs the disinhibition of task-relevant neuronal populations, whereas the alpha-band rhythm suppresses neurons that may interfere with task performance. Cortical alpha- and beta-band rhythms were manipulated with transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) while human participants selected how to grasp an object. Stimulation was applied at either 10 or 20 Hz and was imposed on the sensorimotor cortex contralaterally or ipsilaterally to the grasping hand. In line with task-induced changes in endogenous spectral power, the effect of the tACS intervention depended on the frequency and site of stimulation. Whereas tACS stimulation generally increased movement selection times, 10 Hz stimulation led to relatively faster selection times when applied to the hemisphere ipsilateral to the grasping hand, compared with other stimulation conditions. These effects occurred selectively when multiple movements were considered. These observations functionally differentiate the causal contribution of alpha- and beta-band oscillations to movement selection. The findings suggest that sensorimotor beta-band rhythms disinhibit task-relevant populations, whereas alpha-band rhythms inhibit neuronal populations that could interfere with movement selection.This study shows dissociable effects of 10 Hz and 20 Hz tACS on the duration of movement selection. These observations have two elements of general relevance. First, the finding that alpha- and beta-band oscillations contribute independently to movement selection provides insight in how oscillations orchestrate motor behavior, which is key to understand movement selection deficits in neurodegenerative disorders. Second, the findings highlight the potential of 10 Hz stimulation as a neurophysiologically grounded intervention to enhance human performance. In particular, this intervention can potentially be exploited to boost rehabilitation after neural damage by targeting the unaffected hemisphere.

Pub.: 19 Aug '16, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Phase and Frequency-Dependent Effects of Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation on Motor Cortical Excitability.

Abstract: Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) can entrain ongoing brain oscillations and modulate the motor system in a frequency-dependent manner. Recent animal studies have demonstrated that the phase of a sinusoidal current also has an important role in modulation of neuronal activity. However, the phase effects of tACS on the human motor system are largely unknown. Here, we systematically investigated the effects of tACS phase and frequency on the primary motor cortex (M1) by using motor evoked potentials (MEPs) with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). First, we compared the phase effects (90°, 180°, 270° or 360°) of 10 and 20 Hz tACS on MEPs. The 20 Hz tACS significantly increased M1 excitability compared with the 10 Hz tACS at 90° phase only. Second, we studied the 90° phase effect on MEPs at different tACS frequencies (5, 10, 20 or 40 Hz). The 20 vs. 10 Hz difference was again observed, but the 90° phase in 5 and 40 Hz tACS did not influence M1 excitability. Third, the 90° phase effects of 10 and 20 Hz tACS were compared with sham stimulation. The 90° phase of 20 Hz tACS enhanced MEP amplitudes compared with sham stimulation, but there was no significant effect of 10 Hz tACS. Taken together, we assume that the differential 90° phase effects on 20 Hz and 10 Hz tACS can be attributed to the neural synchronization modulated by tACS. Our results further underline that phase and frequency are the important factors in the effects of tACS on M1 excitability.

Pub.: 09 Sep '16, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Brain Network Mechanisms Underlying Motor Enhancement by Transcranial Entrainment of Gamma Oscillations.

Abstract: Gamma and beta oscillations are routinely observed in motor-related brain circuits during movement preparation and execution. Entrainment of gamma or beta oscillations via transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) over primary motor cortex (M1) has opposite effects on motor performance, suggesting a causal role of these brain rhythms for motor control. However, it is largely unknown which brain mechanisms characterize these changes in motor performance brought about by tACS. In particular, it is unclear whether these effects result from brain activity changes only in the targeted areas or within functionally connected brain circuits. Here we investigated this issue by applying gamma-band and beta-band tACS over M1 in healthy humans during a visuomotor task and concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Gamma tACS indeed improved both the velocity and acceleration of visually triggered movements, compared with both beta tACS and sham stimulation. Beta tACS induced a numerical decrease in velocity compared with sham stimulation, but this was not statistically significant. Crucially, gamma tACS induced motor performance enhancements correlated with changed BOLD activity in the stimulated M1. Moreover, we found frequency- and task-specific neural compensatory activity modulations in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), suggesting a key regulatory role of this region in motor performance. Connectivity analyses revealed that the dmPFC interacted functionally with M1 and with regions within the executive motor system. These results suggest a role of the dmPFC for motor control and show that tACS-induced behavioral changes not only result from activity modulations underneath the stimulation electrode but also reflect compensatory modulation within connected and functionally related brain networks. More generally, our results illustrate how combined tACS-fMRI can be used to resolve the causal link between cortical rhythms, brain systems, and behavior.Recent research has suggested a causal role for gamma oscillations during movement preparation and execution. Here we combine transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the neural mechanisms that accompany motor performance enhancements triggered by gamma tACS over the primary motor cortex. We show that the tACS-induced motor performance enhancements correlate with changed neural activity in the stimulated area and modulate, in a frequency- and task-specific manner, the neural activity in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. This suggests a regulatory role of this region for motor control. More generally, we show that combined tACS-fMRI can elucidate the causal link between brain oscillations, neural systems, and behavior.

Pub.: 25 Nov '16, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

Transcranial alternating current stimulation attenuates neuronal adaptation.

Abstract: We previously showed that brief application of 2 mA (peak-to-peak) transcranial currents alternating at 10 Hz significantly reduces motion adaptation in humans. This is but one of many behavioral studies showing that weak currents applied to the scalp modulate neural processing. Transcranial stimulation has been shown to improve perception, learning, and a range of clinical symptoms. Few studies, however, have measured the neural consequences of transcranial current stimulation. We capitalized on the strong link between motion perception and neural activity in the middle temporal (MT) area of the macaque monkey to study the neural mechanisms that underlie the behavioral consequences of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). First, we observed that 2 mA currents generated substantial intracranial fields, which were much stronger in the stimulated hemisphere (0.12 V/m) than on the opposite side of the brain (0.03 V/m). Second, we found that brief application of tACS at 10 Hz reduced spike-frequency adaptation of MT neurons and led to a broad-band increase in the power-spectrum of local field potentials. Together these findings provide a direct demonstration that weak electric fields applied to the scalp significantly affect neural processing in the primate brain and that this includes a hitherto unknown mechanism that attenuates sensory adaptation.Transcranial stimulation has been claimed to improve perception, learning, and a range of clinical symptoms. Little is known, however, how transcranial current stimulation generates such effects and the search for better stimulation protocols proceeds largely by trial and error. We investigated, for the first time, the neural consequences of stimulation in the monkey brain. We found that even brief application of alternating current stimulation reduced the effects of adaptation on single neuron firing rates and local field potentials; this mechanistic insight explains previous behavioral findings and suggest a novel way to modulate neural information processing using transcranial currents. In addition, by developing an animal model to help understand transcranial stimulation, this study will aid the rational design of stimulation protocols for the treatment of mental illnesses, and the improvement of perception and learning.

Pub.: 01 Feb '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17

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

Abstract: 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.

Pub.: 01 Jun '17, Pinned: 27 Sep '17