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Stimulating multiple-demand cortex enhances vocabulary learning

Sliwinska, MW; Violante, IR; Wise, RJS; Leech, R; Devlin, JT; Geranmayeh, F; Hampshire, A; (2017) Stimulating multiple-demand cortex enhances vocabulary learning. Journal of Neuroscience , 37 (32) pp. 7606-7618. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3857-16.2017. Green open access

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Abstract

It is well established that networks within multiple-demand cortex (MDC) become active when diverse skills and behaviors are being learnt. However, their causal role in learning remains to be established. In the present study, we first performed functional magnetic resonance imaging on healthy female and male human participants to confirm that MDC was most active in the initial stages of learning a novel vocabulary, consisting of pronounceable nonwords (pseudowords), each associated with a picture of a real object. We then examined, in healthy female and male human participants, whether repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of a frontal midline node of the cingulo-opercular MDC affected learning rates specifically during the initial stages of learning. We report that stimulation of this node, but not a control brain region, substantially improved both accuracy and response times during the earliest stage of learning pseudoword-object associations. This stimulation had no effect on the processing of established vocabulary, tested by the accuracy and response times when participants decided whether a real word was accurately paired with a picture of an object. These results provide evidence that non-invasive stimulation to MDC nodes can enhance learning rates, thereby demonstrating their causal role in the learning process. We propose that this causal role makes MDC candidate target for experimental therapeutics; for example, in stroke patients with aphasia attempting to reacquire a vocabulary.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTLearning a task involves the brain system within which that specific task becomes established. Therefore, successfully learning a new vocabulary establishes the novel words in the language system. However, there is evidence that in the early stages of learning, networks within multiple-demand cortex (MDC), which control higher cognitive functions, such as working memory, attention, and monitoring of performance, become active. This activity declines once the task is learnt. The present study demonstrated that a node within MDC, located in midline frontal cortex, becomes active during the early stage of learning a novel vocabulary. Importantly, non-invasive brain stimulation of this node improved performance during this stage of learning. This observation demonstrated that MDC activity is important for learning.

Type: Article
Title: Stimulating multiple-demand cortex enhances vocabulary learning
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3857-16.2017
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3857-16.2017
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 Sliwinska et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed
Keywords: dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, functional magnetic resonance imaging, midline superior frontal gyrus, multiple-demand cortexnovel vocabulary learning, transcranial magnetic stimulation
UCL classification: UCL
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 > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1564921
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