No Effect of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation over Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex on Temporal Attention

Raquel E London, Heleen A Slagter

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Selection mechanisms that dynamically gate only relevant perceptual information for further processing and sustained representation in working memory are critical for goal-directed behavior. We examined whether this gating process can be modulated by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (lDLPFC)-a region known to play a key role in working memory and conscious access. Specifically, we examined the effects of tDCS on the magnitude of the "attentional blink" (AB), a deficit in identifying the second of two targets presented in rapid succession. Thirty-four participants performed an AB task before (baseline), during and after 20 min of 1-mA anodal and cathodal tDCS in two separate sessions. On the basis of previous reports linking individual differences in AB magnitude to individual differences in DLPFC activity and on the basis of suggestions that effects of tDCS depend on baseline brain activity levels, we hypothesized that anodal tDCS over lDLPFC would modulate the magnitude of the AB as a function of individual baseline AB magnitude. Behavioral results did not provide support for this hypothesis. At the group level, we also did not observe any significant effects of tDCS, and a Bayesian analysis revealed strong evidence that tDCS to lDLPFC did not affect AB performance. Together, these findings do not support the idea that there is an optimal level of prefrontal cortical excitability for cognitive function. More generally, they add to a growing body of work that challenges the idea that the effects of tDCS can be predicted from baseline levels of behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)756-768
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number4
Early online date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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