Synchronizing theta oscillations with direct-current stimulation strengthens adaptive control in the human brain.

Reinhart RM, Zhu J, Park S, Woodman GF
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 112 (30): 9448-53

PMID: 26124116 · PMCID: PMC4522782 · DOI:10.1073/pnas.1504196112

Executive control and flexible adjustment of behavior following errors are essential to adaptive functioning. Loss of adaptive control may be a biomarker of a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly in the schizophrenia spectrum. Here, we provide support for the view that oscillatory activity in the frontal cortex underlies adaptive adjustments in cognitive processing following errors. Compared with healthy subjects, patients with schizophrenia exhibited low frequency oscillations with abnormal temporal structure and an absence of synchrony over medial-frontal and lateral-prefrontal cortex following errors. To demonstrate that these abnormal oscillations were the origin of the impaired adaptive control in patients with schizophrenia, we applied noninvasive dc electrical stimulation over the medial-frontal cortex. This noninvasive stimulation descrambled the phase of the low-frequency neural oscillations that synchronize activity across cortical regions. Following stimulation, the behavioral index of adaptive control was improved such that patients were indistinguishable from healthy control subjects. These results provide unique causal evidence for theories of executive control and cortical dysconnectivity in schizophrenia.

MeSH Terms (16)

Adult Brain Brain Mapping Case-Control Studies Cognition Computer Simulation Electroencephalography Female Frontal Lobe Humans Male Middle Aged Oscillometry Prefrontal Cortex Schizophrenia Theta Rhythm

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