The effect of montages of transcranial alternating current stimulation on occipital responses—a sham-controlled pilot study

Jingying Wang, Kai Yip Choi, Benjamin Thompson, Ho Lung Henry Chan, Allen Ming Yan Cheong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Transcranial alternative current stimulation (tACS) refers to a promising non-invasive technique to improve brain functions. However, owing to various stimulation parameters in the literature, optimization of the stimulation is warranted. In this study, the authors aimed to compare the effect of tACS electrode montages on occipital responses.

Methods: In three montage sessions (i.e., Oz-Cz, Oz-cheek, and sham), 10 healthy young adults participated, receiving 20-min 2-mA alpha-tACS. Pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials (VEPs) were measured before tACS (T0), immediately after (T20), and 20 min (T40) after tACS. Normalized changes in time-domain features (i.e., N75, P100 amplitudes, and P100 latency) and frequency-domain features [i.e., power spectral density in alpha (PSDα) and beta (PSDβ) bands] were evaluated.

Results: In contrast to our hypothesis, the occipital response decreased immediately (T20) after receiving the 20-min tACS in all montages in terms of P100 amplitude (p = 0.01). This reduction returned to baseline level (T0) in Oz-cheek and sham conditions but sustained in the Oz-Cz condition (T40, p = 0.03) after 20 min of tACS. The effects on N75 amplitude and P100 latency were statistically insignificant. For spectral analysis, both PSDα and PSDβ were significantly increased after tACS at T20, in which the effect sustained until T40. However, there was no differential effect by montages. There was no significant difference in the occurrence of sensations across the montages. The effectiveness of the blinding is supported by the participants’ rate of guessing correctly.

Conclusion: This study revealed an immediate inhibitory effect of tACS, regardless of the montages. This inhibitory effect sustained in the Oz-Cz montage but faded out in other montages after 20 min.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1273044
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2024


  • non-invasive brain stimulation
  • transcranial alternating current stimulation
  • transcranial electrical stimulation
  • montage
  • occipital excitability
  • visual evoked potentials


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