Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) at 20 Hz (β) has been shown to modulate motor evoked potentials (MEPs) when paired with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in a phase-dependent manner. Repetitive paired-pulse TMS (rPPS) with I-wave periodicity (1.5 ms) induced short-lived facilitation of MEPs. We hypothesized that tACS would modulate the facilitatory effects of rPPS in a frequency- and phase-dependent manner. To test our hypothesis, we investigated the effects of combined tACS and rPPS. We applied rPPS in combination with peak or trough phase tACS at 10 Hz (α) or β, or sham tACS (rPPS alone). The facilitatory effects of rPPS in the sham condition were temporary and variable among participants. In the β tACS peak condition, significant increases in single-pulse MEPs persisted for over 30 min after the stimulation, and this effect was stable across participants. In contrast, β tACS in the trough condition did not modulate MEPs. Further, α tACS parameters did not affect single-pulse MEPs after the intervention. These results suggest that a rPPS-induced increase in trans-synaptic efficacy could be strengthened depending on the β tACS phase, and that this technique could produce long-lasting plasticity with respect to cortical excitability.
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