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Front Cell Neurosci. 2017 Sep 1;11:214. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2017.00214. eCollection 2017.

Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) Mechanisms and Protocols.

Tavakoli AV1,2, Yun K1,3,4.

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Division of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, CA, United States.
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA, United States.
Computation and Neural Systems, California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, CA, United States.
Bio-Inspired Technologies and Systems, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, CA, United States.


Perception, cognition and consciousness can be modulated as a function of oscillating neural activity, while ongoing neuronal dynamics are influenced by synaptic activity and membrane potential. Consequently, transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) may be used for neurological intervention. The advantageous features of tACS include the biphasic and sinusoidal tACS currents, the ability to entrain large neuronal populations, and subtle control over somatic effects. Through neuromodulation of phasic, neural activity, tACS is a powerful tool to investigate the neural correlates of cognition. The rapid development in this area requires clarity about best practices. Here we briefly introduce tACS and review the most compelling findings in the literature to provide a starting point for using tACS. We suggest that tACS protocols be based on functional brain mechanisms and appropriate control experiments, including active sham and condition blinding.


cognitive performance; neural entrainment; neuromodulation; neuroplasticity; non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation (NTBS); noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS); transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS); transcranial electrical stimulation (tES)

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