EEG Driven tDCS Versus Bifrontal tDCS for Tinnitus

Front Psychiatry. 2012 Sep 25;3:84. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00084. eCollection 2012.


Tinnitus is the perception of a sound in the absence of any objective physical sound source. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) induces shifts in membrane resting potentials depending on the polarity of the stimulation: under the anode gamma band activity increases, whereas under the cathode the opposite occurs. Both single and multiple sessions of tDCS over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; anode over right DLPFC) yield a transient improvement in tinnitus intensity and tinnitus distress. The question arises whether optimization of the tDCS protocol can be obtained by using EEG driven decisions on where to place anode and cathode. Using gamma band functional connectivity could be superior to gamma band activity as functional connectivity determines the tinnitus network in many aspects of chronic tinnitus. Six-hundred-seventy-five patients were included in the study: 265 patients received tDCS with cathodal electrode placed over the left DLPFC and the anode placed overlying the right DLPFC, 380 patients received tDCS based on EEG connectivity, and 65 received no tDCS (i.e., waiting list control group). Repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for pre versus post measurement. Bifrontal tDCS in comparison to EEG driven tDCS had a larger reduction for both tinnitus distress and tinnitus intensity. Whereas the results of the bifrontal tDCS seem to confirm previous studies, the use of gamma band functional connectivity seems not to bring any advantage to tDCS for tinnitus suppression. Using other potential biomarkers, such as gamma band activity, or theta functional connectivity could theoretically be of use. Further studies will have to elucidate whether brain state based tDCS has any advantages over "blind" bifrontal stimulation.

Keywords: EEG; direct current; gamma; tDCS; tinnitus.