Research article Recurring Topics

Stimulating the parietal cortex by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS): no effects on attention and memory

  • Received: 26 September 2020 Accepted: 11 November 2020 Published: 18 November 2020
  • Selective attention is relevant for goal directed behavior as it allows people to attend to task-relevant target stimuli and to ignore task-irrelevant distractors. Attentional focus at encoding affects subsequent memory for target and distractor stimuli. Remembering selectively more targets than distractors represents memory selectivity. Brain imaging studies suggest that the superior parietal cortex is associated with the dorsal attentional network supporting top-down control of selective attention while the inferior parietal cortex is associated with the ventral attentional network supporting bottom-up attentional orienting. To investigate the roles of the dorsal and ventral networks in the effect of selective attention during encoding on long-term memory, we stimulated the left superior and the right inferior parietal cortex. Building on previous work, we applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) during a study phase where pictures and words were presented simultaneously and participants had to switch between a picture and a word decision. A subsequent recognition test assessed memory for target and distractor pictures and words. We hypothesized that a relative increase in activity in the dorsal network would boost selective attention while increased activity in the ventral network would impair selective attention. We also expected to find corresponding effects on memory. Enhanced selective attention should lead to higher memory selectivity, while impaired selective attention should lead to lower memory selectivity. Our results replicated that task switching reduced memory selectivity. However, we found no significant effects of tDCS. Thus, the present study questions the effectiveness of the present tDCS protocol for modulating attention during task switching and subsequent memory.

    Citation: Mirela Dubravac, Beat Meier. Stimulating the parietal cortex by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS): no effects on attention and memory[J]. AIMS Neuroscience, 2021, 8(1): 33-46. doi: 10.3934/Neuroscience.2021002

    Related Papers:

  • Selective attention is relevant for goal directed behavior as it allows people to attend to task-relevant target stimuli and to ignore task-irrelevant distractors. Attentional focus at encoding affects subsequent memory for target and distractor stimuli. Remembering selectively more targets than distractors represents memory selectivity. Brain imaging studies suggest that the superior parietal cortex is associated with the dorsal attentional network supporting top-down control of selective attention while the inferior parietal cortex is associated with the ventral attentional network supporting bottom-up attentional orienting. To investigate the roles of the dorsal and ventral networks in the effect of selective attention during encoding on long-term memory, we stimulated the left superior and the right inferior parietal cortex. Building on previous work, we applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) during a study phase where pictures and words were presented simultaneously and participants had to switch between a picture and a word decision. A subsequent recognition test assessed memory for target and distractor pictures and words. We hypothesized that a relative increase in activity in the dorsal network would boost selective attention while increased activity in the ventral network would impair selective attention. We also expected to find corresponding effects on memory. Enhanced selective attention should lead to higher memory selectivity, while impaired selective attention should lead to lower memory selectivity. Our results replicated that task switching reduced memory selectivity. However, we found no significant effects of tDCS. Thus, the present study questions the effectiveness of the present tDCS protocol for modulating attention during task switching and subsequent memory.


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    Acknowledgment



    We thank Franziska R. Richter for providing us the study materials. We also thank Andrea Häfliger, Vera von Deschwanden, Valentina Laim, Jana Ach, Nora Moser, and Michel Marbach for testing the participants, and Branislav Savic for his valuable inputs and support regarding the tDCS setup.

    Author contributions



    MD and BM designed the study. MD programmed the experiment, supervised data collection, and analyzed the data. MD and BM interpreted the results. MD wrote the first draft. BM provided critical revisions. Both authors approved the final version of the article.

    Conflict of interest



    The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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