Insights Into Auditory Cortex Dynamics From Non-invasive Brain Stimulation

Front Neurosci. 2018 Jul 13:12:469. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00469. eCollection 2018.


Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has been widely used as a research tool to modulate cortical excitability of motor as well as non-motor areas, including auditory or language-related areas. NIBS, especially transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation, have also been used in clinical settings, with however variable therapeutic outcome, highlighting the need to better understand the mechanisms underlying NIBS techniques. TMS was initially used to address causality between specific brain areas and related behavior, such as language production, providing non-invasive alternatives to lesion studies. Recent literature however suggests that the relationship is not as straightforward as originally thought, and that TMS can show both linear and non-linear modulation of brain responses, highlighting complex network dynamics. In particular, in the last decade, NIBS studies have enabled further advances in our understanding of auditory processing and its underlying functional organization. For instance, NIBS studies showed that even when only one auditory cortex is stimulated unilaterally, bilateral modulation may result, thereby highlighting the influence of functional connectivity between auditory cortices. Additional neuromodulation techniques such as transcranial alternating current stimulation or transcranial random noise stimulation have been used to target frequency-specific neural oscillations of the auditory cortex, thereby providing further insight into modulation of auditory functions. All these NIBS techniques offer different perspectives into the function and organization of auditory cortex. However, further research should be carried out to assess the mode of action and long-term effects of NIBS to optimize their use in clinical settings.

Keywords: asymmetry; auditory cortex; interhemispheric interactions; networks dynamics; non-invasive brain stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review