A characteristic pattern of abnormal brain activity is abnormally strong neuronal synchronization, as found in several brain disorders, such as tinnitus, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy. As observed in several diseases, different therapeutic interventions may induce a placebo effect that may be strong and hinder reliable clinical evaluations. Hence, to distinguish between specific, neuromodulation-induced effects and unspecific, placebo effects, it is important to mimic the therapeutic procedure as precisely as possibly, thereby providing controls that actually lack specific effects. Coordinated Reset (CR) stimulation has been developed to specifically counteract abnormally strong synchronization by desynchronization. CR is a spatio-temporally patterned multichannel stimulation which reduces the extent of coincident neuronal activity and aims at an anti-kindling, i.e., an unlearning of both synaptic connectivity and neuronal synchrony. Apart from acute desynchronizing effects, CR may cause sustained, long-lasting desynchronizing effects, as already demonstrated in pre-clinical and clinical proof of concept studies. In this computational study, we set out to computationally develop a sham stimulation protocol for multichannel desynchronizing stimulation. To this end, we compare acute effects and long-lasting effects of six different spatio-temporally patterned stimulation protocols, including three variants of CR, using a no-stimulation condition as additional control. This is to provide an inventory of different stimulation algorithms with similar fundamental stimulation parameters (e.g., mean stimulation rates) but qualitatively different acute and/or long-lasting effects. Stimulation protocols sharing basic parameters, but inducing nevertheless completely different or even no acute effects and/or after-effects, might serve as controls to validate the specific effects of particular desynchronizing protocols such as CR. In particular, based on our computational findings we propose a multichannel sham (i.e., inactive) stimulation protocol as control condition for phase 2 and phase 3 studies with desynchronizing multichannel stimulation techniques.
Zeitler, M., & Tass, P. A. (2018). Computationally developed sham stimulation protocol for multichannel desynchronizing stimulation. Frontiers in Physiology, 9(MAY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00512