Increasing motor skill acquisition by driving theta-gamma coupling
Akkad H., Dupont-Hadwen J., Frese A., Tetkovic I., Barrett L., Bestmann S., Stagg CJ.
AbstractSkill learning is a fundamental adaptive process, but the mechanisms remain poorly understood. Hippocampal learning is closely associated with gamma activity, which is amplitude-modulated by the phase of underlying theta activity. Whether such nested activity patterns also underpin skill acquisition in non-hippocampal tasks is unknown. Here we addressed this question by using transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) over sensorimotor cortex to modulate theta-gamma activity during motor skill acquisition, as an exemplar of a non-hippocampal-dependent task. We demonstrated, and then replicated, a significant improvement in skill acquisition with theta-gamma tACS, which outlasted the stimulation by an hour. Our results suggest that theta-gamma activity may be a common mechanism for learning across the brain and provides a putative novel intervention for optimising functional improvements in response to training or therapy.