Altering brain dynamics with transcranial random noise stimulation

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 11;9(1):4029. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40335-w.


Random noise can enhance the detectability of weak signals in nonlinear systems, a phenomenon known as stochastic resonance (SR). This concept is not only applicable to single threshold systems but can also be applied to dynamical systems with multiple attractor states, such as observed during the phenomenon of binocular rivalry. Binocular rivalry can be characterized by marginally stable attractor states between which the brain switches in a spontaneous, stochastic manner. Here we used a computational model to predict the effect of noise on perceptual dominance durations. Subsequently we compared the model prediction to a series of experiments where we measured binocular rivalry dynamics when noise (zero-mean Gaussian random noise) was added either to the visual stimulus (Exp. 1) or directly to the visual cortex (Exp. 2) by applying transcranial Random Noise Stimulation (tRNS 1 mA, 100-640 Hz zero -mean Gaussian random noise). We found that adding noise significantly reduced the mixed percept duration (Exp. 1 and Exp. 2). Our results are the first to demonstrate that both central and peripheral noise can influence state-switching dynamics of binocular rivalry under specific conditions (e.g. low visual contrast stimuli), in line with a SR-mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Dominance, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Noise*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods
  • Vision Disparity / physiology*
  • Vision, Binocular / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*