April 14, 2021

Context and Phase Dependent Effects of Delta transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation on Dynamic Attending

Attention requires the allocation of limited resources to properly interpret our environment, making it ultimately unsustainable. Dynamic Attending Theory suggests that, in order to realistically maintain vigilance to our surroundings, attention likely fluctuates between high and low energetic states, such that information can be processed more quickly and accurately during attentional peaks and vice versa. Additionally, prior studies have suggested that the phase of delta oscillations (1-4 Hz) are critically involved in the entrainment of attention. We investigated the physiological and behavioral entrainment of attention and the role that delta phase plays to moderate the benefits of this attending. Participants (N=28) passively listened to a background auditory rhythm and were required to complete a visual discrimination task while undergoing 2 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). The task involved identifying an image, either upright or inverted, presented either on or before the final beat, while receiving delta stimulation that was either aligned or unaligned with image presentation. As expected, reaction times (RTs) were faster for on-beat than off-beat stimuli, and for upright images than inverted. Crucially, tACS phase-aligned with the beat led to faster RTs over out-of-phase stimulation, but only for upright images; remarkably, this pattern was reversed for inverted images presented on- beat, with slower RTs for inverted stimuli during in-phase tACS. These results suggest that the effects of delta tACS are both phase and context dependent, and mediate a potential form of speed- accuracy tradeoff in the allocation of attentional resources during rhythmic entrainment.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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