Effects of prefrontal bipolar and high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation on cortical reactivity and working memory in healthy adults

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Abstract

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a well-recognised neuromodulatory technology which has been shown to induce short-lasting changes in motor-cortical excitability. The recent and rapid expansion of tDCS into the cognitive domain, however, necessitates deeper mechanistic understanding of its neurophysiological effects over non-motor brain regions. The present study utilised transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with electroencephalography (TMS-EEG) to probe the immediate and longer-term effects of both a bipolar (BP-tDCS) and more focal 4×1 High-Definition tDCS (HD-tDCS) montage applied over the left DLPFC on TMS-evoked potentials (TEPs) and oscillations in 19 healthy adult participants. 2-back working memory (WM) performance was also assessed as a marker of cognitive function. Region of interest (ROI) analyses taken from the F1 electrode directly adjacent to the stimulation site revealed increased P60 TEP amplitudes at this location 5 min following BP-tDCS and 30 min following HD-tDCS. Further global cluster based analyses of all scalp electrodes revealed widespread neuromodulatory changes following HD-tDCS, but not BP-tDCS, both five and 30 min after stimulation, with reductions also detected in both beta and gamma oscillatory power over parieto-occipital channels 30 min after stimulation. No significant changes in WM performance were observed following either HD-tDCS or BP-tDCS. This study highlights the capacity for single-session prefrontal anodal tDCS montages to modulate neurophysiological processes, as assessed with TMS-EEG.

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