Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over auditory cortex degrades frequency discrimination by affecting temporal, but not place, coding

Authors


Correspondence: M. F. Tang, as above.

E-mail: matthew.tang@graduate.uwa.edu.au

Abstract

We report three studies of the effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over auditory cortex on audition in humans. Experiment 1 examined whether tDCS enhances rapid frequency discrimination learning. Human subjects were trained on a frequency discrimination task for 2 days with anodal tDCS applied during the first day with the second day used to assess effects of stimulation on retention. This revealed that tDCS did not affect learning but did degrade frequency discrimination during both days. Follow-up testing 2–3 months after stimulation showed no long-term effects. Following the unexpected results, two additional experiments examined the effects of tDCS on the underlying mechanisms of frequency discrimination, place and temporal coding. Place coding underlies frequency selectivity and was measured using psychophysical tuning curves with broader curves indicating poorer frequency selectivity. Temporal coding is determined by measuring the ability to discriminate sounds with different fine temporal structure. We found that tDCS does not broaden frequency selectivity but instead degraded the ability to discriminate tones with different fine temporal structure. The overall results suggest anodal tDCS applied over auditory cortex degrades frequency discrimination by affecting temporal, but not place, coding mechanisms.

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