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The use of transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) as a method to augment neural activity has increased in popularity in the last decade and a half. The specific application of TES to the left prefrontal cortex has been shown to produce broad cognitive effects; however, the neural mechanisms underlying these effects remain unknown. In this work, we evaluated the effect of repetitive TES on cerebral perfusion. Stimulation was applied to the left prefrontal cortex on three consecutive days, and resting cerebral perfusion was quantified before and after stimulation using arterial spin labeling. Perfusion was found to decrease significantly more in a matched sham stimulation group than in a group receiving active stimulation across many areas of the brain. These changes were found to originate in the locus coeruleus and were broadly distributed in the neocortex. The changes in the neocortex may be a direct result of the stimulation or an indirect result via the changes in the noradrenergic system produced from the altered activity of the locus coeruleus. These findings indicate that anodal left prefrontal stimulation alters the activity of the locus coeruleus, and this altered activity may excite the noradrenergic system producing the broad behavioral effects that have been reported.


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