Null Effects on Working Memory and Verbal Fluency Tasks When Applying Anodal tDCS to the Inferior Frontal Gyrus of Healthy Participants.
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 (LIFG) and compared performance when applying a 1.5 mA anodal current for 25 min 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.
Project description:The purpose of the present systematic review and meta-analysis was to explore the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on endurance (i.e., time to task failure (TTF)) and maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). Furthermore, we aimed to analyze whether the duration of stimulation, the brain region targeted for stimulation, and the task performed could also influence motor performance. We performed a systematic literature review in the databases MEDLINE and Web of Science. The short-term effects of anodal tDCS and sham stimulation (placebo) were considered as experimental and control conditions, respectively. A total of 31 interventions were included (MVC = 13; TTF = 18). Analysis of the strength-related tDCS studies showed small improvements in the MVC (SMD = 0.19; 95% CI = -0.02, 0.41; p = 0.08). However, the results of the endurance-related interventions indicated a moderate effect on TTF performance (SMD = 0.26; 95% CI = 0.07, 0.45; p = 0.008). Furthermore, the sub-analysis showed that anodal tDCS over M1 and stimulation durations longer than 10 min produced the best results in terms of TTF performance enhancement. Additionally, the effects of anodal tDCS were larger during full body exercises (i.e., cycling) when compared to uniarticular tasks. In conclusion, the current meta-analysis indicated that anodal tDCS leads to small and moderate effects on MVC and TTF, respectively.
Project description:The promise of transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) as a modulator of cognition has appealed to researchers, media, and the general public. Researchers have suggested that tDCS may increase effects of cognitive training. In this study of 123 older adults, we examined the interactive effects of 20 sessions of anodal tDCS over the left prefrontal cortex (vs. sham tDCS) and simultaneous working memory training (vs. control training) on change in cognitive abilities. Stimulation did not modulate gains from pre- to posttest on latent factors of either trained or untrained tasks in a statistically significant manner. A supporting meta-analysis ( n = 266), including younger as well as older individuals, showed that, when combined with training, tDCS was not much more effective than sham tDCS at changing working memory performance ( g = 0.07, 95% confidence interval, or CI = [-0.21, 0.34]) and global cognition performance ( g = -0.01, 95% CI = [-0.29, 0.26]) assessed in the absence of stimulation. These results question the general usefulness of current tDCS protocols for enhancing the effects of cognitive training on cognitive ability.
Project description:The prefrontal cortex is central to higher order cognitive function. However, the cerebellum, generally thought to be involved in motor control and learning, has also been implicated in higher order cognition. Recent work using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) provides some support for right cerebellar involvement in higher order cognition, though the results are mixed, and often contradictory. Here, we used cathodal high definition tDCS (HD-tDCS) over the right cerebellum to assess the impact of HD-tDCS on modulating cognitive performance. We predicted that stimulation would result in performance decreases, which would suggest that optimal cerebellar function is necessary for cognitive performance, much like the prefrontal cortex. That is, it is not simply a structure that lends support to complete difficult tasks. While the expected cognitive behavioral effects were present, we did not find effects of stimulation. This has broad implications for cerebellar tDCS research, particularly for those who are interested in using HD-tDCS as a way of examining cerebellar function. Further implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed with particular emphasis on why null findings might be critical in developing a clear picture of the effects of tDCS on the cerebellum.
Project description:Prefrontal anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been proposed as a potential approach to improve inhibitory control performance. The functional consequences of tDCS during inhibition tasks remain, however, largely unresolved. We addressed this question by analyzing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) recorded while participants completed a Go/NoGo task after right-lateralized prefrontal anodal tDCS with a crossover, sham-controlled, double-blind experimental design. We replicated previous evidence for an absence of offline effect of anodal stimulation on Go/NoGo performance. The fMRI results revealed a larger increase in right ventrolateral prefrontal activity for Go than NoGo trials in the anodal than sham condition. This pattern suggests that tDCS-induced increases in cortical excitability have larger effects on fMRI activity in regions with a lower task-related engagement. This was the case for the right prefrontal cortex in the Go condition in our task because while reactive inhibition was not engaged during execution trials, the unpredictability of the demand for inhibitory control still incited an engagement of proactive inhibition. Exploratory analyses further revealed that right prefrontal stimulation interacted with task-related functional demands in the supplementary motor area and the thalamus. Our collective results emphasize the dependency of offline tDCS functional effects on the task-related engagement of the stimulated areas and suggest that this factor might partly account for the discrepancies in the functional effects of tDCS observed in previous studies.
Project description:Arithmetic abilities are among the most important school-taught skills and form the basis for higher mathematical competencies. At the same time, their acquisition and application can be challenging. Hence, there is broad interest in methods to improve arithmetic abilities. One promising method is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). In the present study, we compared two anodal tDCS protocols in their efficacy to improve arithmetic performance and working memory. In addition, we investigated stimulation-related electrophysiological changes. Three groups of participants solved arithmetic problems (additions and subtractions) and an n-back task before, during, and after receiving either frontal or parietal anodal tDCS (25 min; 1 mA) or sham stimulation. EEG was simultaneously recorded to assess stimulation effects on event-related (de-) synchronisation (ERS/ERD) in theta and alpha bands. Persons receiving frontal stimulation showed an acceleration of calculation speed in large subtractions from before to during and after stimulation. However, a comparable, but delayed (apparent only after stimulation) increase was also found in the sham stimulation group, while it was absent in the group receiving parietal stimulation. In additions and small subtractions as well as the working memory task, analyses showed no effects of stimulation. Results of ERS/ERD during large subtractions indicate changes in ERS/ERD patterns over time. In the left hemisphere there was a change from theta band ERD to ERS in all three groups, whereas a similar change in the right hemisphere was restricted to the sham group. Taken together, tDCS did not lead to a general improvement of arithmetic performance. However, results indicate that frontal stimulation accelerated training gains, while parietal stimulation halted them. The absence of general performance improvements, but acceleration of training effects might be a further indicator of the advantages of using tDCS as training or learning support over tDCS as a sole performance enhancer.
Project description:There has been increasing interest in the utility of transcranial electrical stimulation as a tool to enhance cognitive abilities. In the domain of face perception, enhancements have been reported for both transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and high-frequency transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) targeting the occipitotemporal cortex. In a series of two experiments, we attempted to replicate these findings for face identity perception, and extend on previous studies, to determine if similar enhancements are also observed for object and facial expression perception. In Experiment 1, using a single blind, between-subjects design in healthy volunteers (N = 53), we examined whether anodal tDCS over the occipitotemporal cortex enhanced performance on tasks involving perception of face identity, facial expression, and object stimuli, when compared to sham stimulation. We failed to replicate previous findings of enhanced performance on face and object perception, nor extend findings to facial expression perception. In Experiment 2, using a single blind, between-subjects design (N = 39), we examined the effect of high-frequency tRNS over the occipitotemporal cortex using the same three tasks employed in Experiment 1. We failed to replicate previous findings of enhanced face perception following high-frequency tRNS over the occipitotemporal cortex, relative to sham stimulation (although we used different stimulation parameters to that employed in a previous study). We also found no evidence of enhanced facial expression and object perception following high-frequency tRNS. The findings align with a growing body of studies that have failed to replicate previously reported enhancements following administration of tDCS and hint for different efficacy of, on first sight, related stimulation protocols. Future studies should explore the foundation of these differential effects in greater detail.
Project description:Working memory (WM) often is impaired in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Such impairment may underlie core deficits in cognition and social functioning. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been shown to enhance WM in both healthy adults and clinical populations, but its efficacy in ASD is unknown. We predicted that bifrontal tDCS would improve WM performances of adults with high-functioning autism during active stimulation compared to sham stimulation and that such enhancement would generalize to an untrained task.Twelve adults with high-functioning ASD engaged in a battery of WM tasks that included backward spatial span, backward digit span, spatial n-back and letter n-back. While engaged, 40 min of 1.5 mA bifrontal stimulation was applied over the left and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (DLPFC). Using a single-blind crossover design, each participant received left anodal/right cathodal stimulation, right anodal/left cathodal stimulation, or sham stimulation, in randomized counterbalanced order on three separate days. Following tDCS, participants again engaged in letter and spatial n-back tasks before taking the Brief Test of Attention (BTA). We used repeated-measures ANOVA to compare overall performance on the WM battery as measured by a composite of z-scores for all five measures. Post hoc ANOVAs, t tests, Friedman's tests, and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were used to measure the online and offline effects of tDCS and to assess performances on individual measures.Compared to sham stimulation, both left DLPFC anodal stimulation (t11 = 5.4, p = 0.0002) and right DLPFC anodal stimulation (t11 = 3.57, p = 0.004) improved overall WM performance. Left anodal stimulation (t11 = 3.9, p = 0.003) and right anodal stimulation (t11 = 2.7, p = 0.019) enhanced performances during stimulation. Enhancement transferred to an untrained task 50 min after right anodal stimulation (z11 = 2.263, p = 0.024). The tasks that showed the largest effects of active stimulation were spatial span backward (z11 = 2.39, p = 0.017) and BTA (z11 = 2.263, p = 0.024).In adults with high-functioning ASD, active bifrontal tDCS given during WM tasks appears to improve performance. TDCS benefits also transferred to an untrained task completed shortly after stimulation. These results suggest that tDCS can improve WM task performance and could reduce some core deficits of autism.NCT01602263.
Project description:Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) paired with exercise training can enhance learning and retention of hand tasks; however, there have been few investigations of the effects of tDCS on leg skill improvements. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether tDCS paired with visuomotor step training can promote skill learning and retention. We hypothesized that pairing step training with anodal tDCS would improve skill learning and retention, evidenced by decreased step reaction times (RTs), both immediately (online skill gains) and 30 min after training (offline skill gains). Twenty healthy adults were randomly assigned to one of two groups, in which 20-min anodal or sham tDCS was applied to the lower limb motor cortex and paired with visuomotor step training. Step RTs were determined across three time points: (1) before brain stimulation (baseline); (2) immediately after brain stimulation (P0); and (3) 30 min after brain stimulation (P3). A continuous decline in RT was observed in the anodal tDCS group at both P0 and P3, with a significant decrease in RT at P3; whereas there were no improvements in RT at P0 and P3 in the sham group. These findings do not support our hypothesis that anodal tDCS enhances online learning, as RT was not decreased significantly immediately after stimulation. Nevertheless, the results indicate that anodal tDCS enhances offline learning, as RT was significantly decreased 30 min after stimulation, likely because of tDCS-induced neural modulation of cortical and subcortical excitability, synaptic efficacy, and spinal neuronal activity.
Project description:Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), applied over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (lDLPFC), can produce significant effects on working memory (WM) performance and associated neurophysiological activity. However, results from previous studies are inconsistent and occasionally contradictory. This inconsistency may be attributed to methodological and individual differences during experiments. This study therefore investigated two hypotheses: (1) A multichannel-optimized montage was expected to be more effective than a classical bipolar montage, because of increased focality. (2) The subjects were expected to benefit differently from the stimulation depending on their initial task performance. In a sham-controlled crossover study, 24 healthy participants received bipolar, multichannel, and sham stimulation for 20 min in randomized order, targeting the lDLPFC while performing a 2-back WM task. After stimulation, electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded at rest and during 2-back and nontarget continuous performance task (CPT) performance. Bipolar and multichannel stimulations were both well tolerated and effectively blinded. We found no effect of stimulation on behavioral performance or neuronal oscillations comparing the classical bipolar or multichannel montage with sham stimulation. We did, however, find an interaction between stimulation and initial task performance. For multichannel stimulation, initially low-performing participants tended to improve their WM performance while initially high-performing participants tended to worsen their performance compared to sham stimulation. Both tDCS montages induced changes in neural oscillatory power, which correlated with baseline performance. The worse the participants' initial WM performance was, the more task-related theta power was induced by multichannel and bipolar stimulation. The same effect was observed for alpha power in the nontarget task following multichannel stimulation. Notably, we were not able to show a superiority of multichannel stimulation compared to bipolar stimulation. Still, comparing both montages with sham stimulation, multichannel stimulation led to stronger effects than bipolar stimulation. The current study highlights the importance of investigating different parameters with potential influence on tDCS effects in combination. Our results demonstrate how individual differences in cognitive performance and electrode montages influence effects of tDCS on neuropsychological performance. These findings support the idea of an individualized and optimized stimulation setting, potentially leading to increased tDCS effects.
Project description:Cognitive functions such as numerical processing and spatial attention show varying degrees of lateralization. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can be used to investigate how modulating cortical excitability affects performance of these tasks. This study investigated the effect of bi-parietal tDCS on numerical processing, spatial and sustained attention. It was hypothesized that tDCS would have distinct effects on these tasks because of varying lateralization (numerical processing left, spatial attention right) and that these effects are partly mediated by modulation of sustained attention. A single-blinded, crossover, sham-controlled study was performed. Eighteen healthy right-handed participants performed cognitive tasks during three sessions of oppositional parietal tDCS stimulation: sham; right anodal with left cathodal (RA/LC); and right cathodal with left anodal (RC/LA). Participants performed a number comparison task, a modified Posner task, a choice reaction task (CRT) and the rapid visual processing task (RVP). RA/LC tDCS impaired number comparison performance compared with sham, with slower responses to numerically close numbers pairs. RA/LC and RC/LA tDCS had distinct effects on CRT performance, specifically affecting vigilance level during the final block of the task. No effect of stimulation on the Posner task or RVP was found. It was demonstrated that oppositional parietal tDCS affected both numerical performance and vigilance level in a polarity-dependent manner. The effect of tDCS on numerical processing may partly be due to attentional effects. The behavioural effects of tDCS were specifically observed under high task demands, demonstrating the consequences of an interaction between stimulation type and cognitive load.