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Journal Article

No effects of prefrontal multichannel tACS at individual alpha frequency on phonological decisions


Hartwigsen,  Gesa
Lise Meitner Research Group Cognition and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Werchowski, M., Stenner, T., Splittgerber, M., Siniatchkin, M., Nees, F., Hartwigsen, G., et al. (2022). No effects of prefrontal multichannel tACS at individual alpha frequency on phonological decisions. Clinical Neurophysiology, 142, 96-108. doi:10.1016/j.clinph.2022.07.494.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-B9C3-9

Alpha oscillations are linked to inhibitory capabilities in higher cognitive processing. Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) at 10 Hz can enhance alpha oscillations and modulate behaviour. One possibility to increase the efficacy of tACS may be stimulating at the individual alpha frequency (IAF). The present work addresses this issue (among others) to increase the current understanding of the functional role of alpha oscillations in higher cognitive tasks.


Twenty-two healthy and 13 dyslexic participants performed two word decision tasks while receiving IAF-tACS over the left prefrontal cortex. Resting EEG was recorded to detect electrophysiological changes. Cortical excitability was assessed with TMS.


Dyslexic participants performed worse in the phonological task. However, no significant tACS effects were found. Interestingly, higher cortical excitability was correlated with faster responses in healthy controls. In dyslexics this association significantly differed in the phonological task.


The non-significant modulation by tACS might be explained by methodological limitations. Alternatively, it may indicate that alpha oscillations do not play a functional role in phonological decisions. The findings on cortical excitability expands the existing literature and may reflect the specific phonological deficit in dyslexics.


Our critical discussion of these null findings expands the systematic knowledge on alpha-tACS for future studies.