Although previous studies have reported correlations between alpha oscillations and the "retention" subprocess of working memory (WM), causal evidence has been limited in human neuroscience due to the lack of delicate modulation of human brain oscillations. Conventional transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) is not suitable for demonstrating the causal evidence for parietal alpha oscillations in WM retention because of its inability to modulate brain oscillations within a short period (i.e., the retention subprocess). Here, we developed an online phase-corrected tACS system capable of precisely correcting for the phase differences between tACS and concurrent endogenous oscillations. This system permits the modulation of brain oscillations at the target stimulation frequency within a short stimulation period and is here applied to empirically demonstrate that parietal alpha oscillations causally relate to WM retention. Our experimental design included both in-phase and anti-phase alpha-tACS applied to participants during the retention subprocess of a modified Sternberg paradigm. Compared to in-phase alpha-tACS, anti-phase alpha-tACS decreased both WM performance and alpha activity. These findings strongly support a causal link between alpha oscillations and WM retention and illustrate the broad application prospects of phase-corrected tACS.
|Number of pages||27|
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2023|