Print page Print page
Switch language
The Capital Region of Denmark - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Can Transcranial Electrical Stimulation Localize Brain Function?

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review


  1. Feasibility Study of Back2School, a Modular Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Youth With School Attendance Problems

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  2. Cognitive Restoration in Children Following Exposure to Nature: Evidence From the Attention Network Task and Mobile Eye Tracking

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  3. Commentary: Transcranial stimulation of the frontal lobes increases propensity of mind-wandering without changing meta-awareness

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debateResearchpeer-review

  1. Directed connectivity between primary and premotor areas underlying ankle force control in young and older adults

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  2. Progressive effects of sildenafil on visual processing in rats

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  3. Discrete finger sequences are widely represented in human striatum

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  4. The influence of prolonged strength training upon muscle and fat in healthy and chronically diseased older adults

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

View graph of relations

Transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) uses constant (TDCS) or alternating currents (TACS) to modulate brain activity. Most TES studies apply low-intensity currents through scalp electrodes (≤2 mA) using bipolar electrode arrangements, producing weak electrical fields in the brain (<1 V/m). Low-intensity TES has been employed in humans to induce changes in task performance during or after stimulation. In analogy to focal transcranial magnetic stimulation, TES-induced behavioral effects have often been taken as evidence for a causal involvement of the brain region underlying one of the two stimulation electrodes, often referred to as the active electrode. Here, we critically review the utility of bipolar low-intensity TES to localize human brain function. We summarize physiological substrates that constitute peripheral targets for TES and may mediate subliminal or overtly perceived peripheral stimulation during TES. We argue that peripheral co-stimulation may contribute to the behavioral effects of TES and should be controlled for by "sham" TES. We discuss biophysical properties of TES, which need to be considered, if one wishes to make realistic assumptions about which brain regions were preferentially targeted by TES. Using results from electric field calculations, we evaluate the validity of different strategies that have been used for selective spatial targeting. Finally, we comment on the challenge of adjusting the dose of TES considering dose-response relationships between the weak tissue currents and the physiological effects in targeted cortical areas. These considerations call for caution when attributing behavioral effects during or after low-intensity TES studies to a specific brain region and may facilitate the selection of best practices for future TES studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number213
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2019

    Research areas

  • Cognition, Dosing, Electric field modeling, Non-specific effects, TES, Transcranial alternate current stimulation, Transcranial direct current stimulation

ID: 56782656