Retinal origin of phosphenes to transcranial alternating current stimulation

Clin Neurophysiol. 2010 Jul;121(7):1080-4. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2009.10.038. Epub 2010 Feb 25.


Objective: To examine possible retinal contributions to cortically induced phosphenes by transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) involving the visual cortex.

Methods: Self-reported phosphene ratings and voltage-related potentials from the canthus, supra-orbital and sub-orbital regions of the right eye were measured to 2, 10 and 20 Hz tACS at 250 and 1000 microA intensities in healthy volunteers.

Results: Qualitatively similar, but more intense phosphenes were reported during frontalis-vertex tACS as compared to occiput-vertex tACS. In addition, voltage-related potentials were recorded at the canthus and orbit regions of the eye during frontalis-vertex, occiput-vertex and occiput-right shoulder tACS.

Conclusions: The experience of phosphenes during tACS involving the visual cortex is influenced by volume conductions effects of the scalp.

Significance: Retinal effects should be taken into account when studying the cortical modulatory effects of tACS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phosphenes / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Young Adult