ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 2053-2066.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02053

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The application of different frequencies of transcranial alternating current stimulation in mental disorders

ZHANG Siyuan, LI Xuebing()   

  1. Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2021-10-01 Online:2022-09-15 Published:2022-07-21
  • Contact: LI Xuebing


In these years, researchers have begun to apply transcranial alternating current stimulation to the field of mental disorders. Especially, the gamma- and alpha-band frequencies are attracting the most attention.

Previous studies have found that using γ-tACS to intervene abnormal brain activity can alleviate cognitive impairment and bring emotional benefits in various mental disorders, such as improving attention and memory functions, and reducing the depressive and anxious symptoms. The α-tACS have been used to modulate abnormal alpha oscillations and brain network connections in mental disorder, which could improve abnormal perceptual processing and enhance emotion regulation function in schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. In addition, few studies have found that θ-tACS could improve cognitive functions in schizophrenia and ADHD, and 77.5 Hz, 15mA-tACS could modulate the release of neurotransmitters in MDD and chronic insomnia.

Based on these clinical trials and case reports, the underlying mechanisms of the effects of tACS on mental disorders might be directly modulating abnormal brain neural activities and indirectly improving cognitive functions of patients'. First, neuroimaging studies have shown that a specific frequency tACS targeting specific brain region could modulate the nerve oscillations of corresponding frequency and brain functional connections, which directly reducing clinical symptoms of patients. Second, instead of targeting the specific damaged brain activity in mental diseases, the tACS is used to activate neural circuits associated to cognitive functions, so as to improve the attention, memory and other cognitive functions, thus alleviating adverse symptoms indirectly.

At present, there are still some unsolved problems in theapplication of tACS in mental disorders. Firstly, the comparative analysis of the stimulation parameters and experiment paradigms is helpful to formulate standardized stimulation protocols and guide the clinical treatment. Secondly, one of the main hypotheses of tACS intervention mechanism in mental diseases is to target the abnormal brain activity of patients. Therefore, high definition tACS is an important method to improve the stimulation accuracy. In addition, the tACS intervention accompanied by EEG recording is also a concern to researchers. Compared with delayed recording, synchronous recording of EEG can better reflect the effect of tACS on brain neural activity, and this dynamic feedback is more conducive to personalized intervention protocol.

In conclusion, the tACS is expected to be a safe and effective method for diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. The mechanism of its effects, the improvement of stimulus parameters and paradigms, and the enhancement of technique upgrading may become the key direct of future study.

Key words: transcranial alternating current stimulation, psychiatric disorders, neural oscillation, cognitive function, intervention

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