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The impact of transcranial direct current stimulation on inhibitory control in young adults

Andrea M Loftus, Ozgur Yalcin, Frank D Baughman, Eric J Vanman, Martin S Hagger
Brain and Behavior 2015, 5 (5): e00332
25874165

BACKGROUND: There is increasing evidence that the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a brain region related to reward and motivational processes, is involved in effective response inhibition and that decreased activity in this region coincides with reduced inhibitory capacity. Using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to manipulate cortical activation, this study examined whether cross-hemispheric tDCS over the DLPFC affected performance on an inhibitory control task.

METHODS: Neurologically intact participants performed a modified Stroop color-word matching task before and after completing one of two tDCS conditions; (1) anodal stimulation over the left DLPFC or (2) sham tDCS.

RESULTS: There was a statistically significant effect of tDCS condition on Stroop reaction time (RT) pre-post tDCS change scores. Participants who received anodal stimulation over the left DLPFC demonstrated statistically significant faster RT change scores on the Stroop items compared to participants in the sham condition. Although errors on Stroop incongruent items decreased before and after receiving the tDCS treatment, there were no significant differences in errors on Stroop items between the anodal stimulation over left DLPFC and sham tDCS conditions. Anodal tDCS, which is known to elevate neural excitation, may have enhanced activation levels in the left DLPFC and minimized impairment of inhibitory control, resulting in better task performance.

CONCLUSIONS: Current findings provide preliminary evidence that increased excitation of the left DLPFC improves inhibitory control and are a step toward understanding the potential of tDCS for moderating deficits in inhibitory control.

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