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Neurocognitive Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Arithmetic Learning and Performance: A Simultaneous tDCS-fMRI Study

Hauser, TU; Rutsche, B; Wurmitzer, K; Brem, S; Ruff, CC; Grabner, RH; (2016) Neurocognitive Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Arithmetic Learning and Performance: A Simultaneous tDCS-fMRI Study. Brain Stimulation , 9 (6) pp. 850-858. 10.1016/j.brs.2016.07.007. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: A small but increasing number of studies suggest that non-invasive brain stimulation by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can modulate arithmetic processes that are essential for higher-order mathematical skills and that are impaired in dyscalculic individuals. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying such stimulation effects, and whether they are specific to cognitive processes involved in different arithmetic tasks. METHODS: We addressed these questions by applying tDCS during simultaneous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while participants were solving two types of complex subtraction problems: repeated problems, relying on arithmetic fact learning and problem-solving by fact retrieval, and novel problems, requiring calculation procedures. Twenty participants receiving left parietal anodal plus right frontal cathodal stimulation were compared with 20 participants in a sham condition. RESULTS: We found a strong cognitive and neural dissociation between repeated and novel problems. Repeated problems were solved more accurately and elicited increased activity in the bilateral angular gyri and medial plus lateral prefrontal cortices. Solving novel problems, in contrast, was accompanied by stronger activation in the bilateral intraparietal sulci and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. Most importantly, tDCS decreased the activation of the right inferior frontal cortex while solving novel (compared to repeated) problems, suggesting that the cathodal stimulation rendered this region unable to respond to the task-specific cognitive demand. CONCLUSIONS: The present study revealed that tDCS during arithmetic problem-solving can modulate the neural activity in proximity to the electrodes specifically when the current demands lead to an engagement of this area.

Type: Article
Title: Neurocognitive Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in Arithmetic Learning and Performance: A Simultaneous tDCS-fMRI Study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.brs.2016.07.007
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.brs.2016.07.007
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licenses are available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/. Access may be initially restricted by the publisher.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Clinical Neurology, Neurosciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Arithmetic, Mathematics, Simultaneous tDCS-fMRI, NONINVASIVE BRAIN-STIMULATION, PARIETAL CORTEX, ANGULAR GYRUS, MOTOR CORTEX, ENHANCEMENT, VARIABILITY, DYSCALCULIA, RETRIEVAL, COGNITION, BLIND
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1508271
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