Null Effects on Working Memory and Verbal Fluency Tasks When Applying Anodal tDCS to the Inferior Frontal Gyrus of Healthy Participants

Samuel Westwood, Cristina Romani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a technique used to modify cognition by modulating underlying cortical excitability via weak electric current applied through the scalp. Although many studies have reported positive effects with tDCS, a number of recent studies highlight that tDCS effects can be small and difficult to reproduce. This is especially the case when attempting to modulate performance using single applications of tDCS in healthy participants. Possible reasons may be that optimal stimulation parameters have yet to be identified, and that individual variation in cortical activity and/or level of ability confound outcomes. To address these points, we carried out a series of experiments in which we attempted to modulate performance in fluency and working memory probe tasks using stimulation parameters which have been associated with positive outcomes: we targeted the left inferior frontal gyrus and compared performance when applying a 1.5mA anodal current for 25 mins and with sham stimulation. There is evidence that LIFG plays a role in these tasks and previous studies have found positive effects of stimulation. We also compared our experimental group (N=19-20) with a control group receiving no stimulation (n = 24). More importantly, we also considered effects on subgroups subdivided according to memory span as well as to more direct measures of executive function abilities and motivational levels. We found no systematic effect of stimulation. Our findings are in line with a growing body of evidence that tDCS produces unreliable effects. We acknowledge that our findings speak to the conditions we investigated, and that alternative protocols (e.g., multiple sessions, clinical samples, and different stimulation polarities) may be more effective. We encourage further research to explore optimal conditions for tDCS efficacy, given the potential benefits that this technique poses for understanding and enhancing cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number166
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2018

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Prefrontal Cortex
Short-Term Memory
Healthy Volunteers
Aptitude
Cognition
Executive Function
Scalp
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
Control Groups
Research

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Westwood and Romani. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

The work is funded by the Ministry of Defense and is funded by Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Porton Down, Salisbury, UK.

Keywords

  • Null effects
  • verbal fluency
  • working memory
  • Brain Stimulation
  • inconsistent effects
  • transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
  • Language
  • Memory

Cite this

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Null Effects on Working Memory and Verbal Fluency Tasks When Applying Anodal tDCS to the Inferior Frontal Gyrus of Healthy Participants. / Westwood, Samuel; Romani, Cristina.

In: Frontiers in Neuroscience, 19.03.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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