Effects of transcranial alternating current stimulation on spiking activity in computational models of single neocortical neurons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neural oscillations are a key mechanism for information transfer in brain circuits. Rhythmic fluctuations of local field potentials control spike timing through cyclic membrane de- and hyperpolarization. Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) is a non-invasive neuromodulation method which can directly interact with brain oscillatory activity by imposing an oscillating electric field on neurons. Despite its increasing use, the basic mechanisms of tACS are still not fully understood. Here, we investigate in a computational study the effects of tACS on morphologically realistic neurons with ongoing spiking activity. We characterize the membrane polarization as a function of electric field strength and subsequent effects on spiking activity in a set of 25 neurons from different neocortical layers. We find that tACS does not affect the firing rate of investigated neurons for electric field strengths applicable to human studies. However, we find that the applied electric fields entrain the spiking activity of large pyramidal neurons and large basket neurons at < 1 mV/mm field strengths. Our model results are in line with recent experimental studies and can provide a mechanistic framework to understand the effects of oscillating electric fields on single neuron activity. They highlight the importance of neuron morphology and biophysics in responsiveness to electrical stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118953
StatePublished - Apr 15 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) at the University of Minnesota for providing resources that contributed to the research results reported within this paper. URL: http://www.msi.umn.edu . This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health RF1MH124909 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Computational
  • Neural entrainment
  • Neuron modeling
  • tACS

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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