Highlights

    – Clinical and research interest in noninvasive brain stimulation has grown exponentially.– Here, we present the main findings on the physiological basis of transcranial electric stimulation (tES).– In a second part, we discuss evidence for applications of tES in behavioral research and clinical settings.– We note several challenges which need to be addressed before extensive clinical use of tES.

Abstract

Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has been gaining increased popularity in human neuroscience research during the last years. Among the emerging NIBS tools is transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), whose main modalities are transcranial direct, and alternating current stimulation (tDCS, tACS). In tES, a small current (usually less than 3 mA) is delivered through the scalp. Depending on its shape, density, and duration, the applied current induces acute or long-lasting effects on excitability and activity of cerebral regions, and brain networks. tES is increasingly applied in different domains to (a) explore human brain physiology with regard to plasticity, and brain oscillations, (b) explore the impact of brain physiology on cognitive processes, and (c) treat clinical symptoms in neurological and psychiatric diseases. In this review, we give a broad overview of the main mechanisms and applications of these brain stimulation tools.