Modulation of Conflict Processing by Theta-Range tACS over the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex

Neural Plast. 2019 Jul 8;2019:6747049. doi: 10.1155/2019/6747049. eCollection 2019.


Behavioral response conflict arises in the color-word Stroop task and triggers the cognitive control network. Midfrontal theta-band oscillations correlate with adaptive control mechanisms during and after conflict resolution. In order to prove causality, in two experiments, we applied transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) at 6 Hz to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during Stroop task performance. Sham stimulation served as a control in both experiments; 9.7 Hz tACS served as a nonharmonic alpha band control in the second experiment. We employed generalized linear mixed models for analysis of behavioral data. Accuracy remained unchanged by any type of active stimulation. Over both experiments, the Stroop effect (response time difference between congruent and incongruent trials) was reduced by 6 Hz stimulation as compared to sham, mainly in trials without prior conflict adaptation. Alpha tACS did not modify the Stroop effect. Theta tACS can both reduce the Stroop effect and modulate adaptive mechanisms of the cognitive control network, suggesting midfrontal theta oscillations as causally involved in cognitive control.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Stroop Test*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult