Journal Article

Improvements in Attention and Decision-Making Following Combined Behavioral Training and Brain Stimulation

Hannah L. Filmer, Elizabeth Varghese, Guy E. Hawkins, Jason B. Mattingley and Paul E. Dux

in Cerebral Cortex

Volume 27, issue 7, pages 3675-3682
Published in print July 2017 | ISSN: 1047-3211
Published online July 2016 | e-ISSN: 1460-2199 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhw189
Improvements in Attention and Decision-Making Following Combined Behavioral Training and Brain Stimulation

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  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neuroscience
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Abstract

In recent years there has been a significant commercial interest in ‘brain training’ – massed or spaced practice on a small set of tasks to boost cognitive performance. Recently, researchers have combined cognitive training regimes with brain stimulation to try and maximize training benefits, leading to task-specific cognitive enhancement. It remains unclear, however, whether the performance gains afforded by such regimes can transfer to untrained tasks, or how training and stimulation affect the brain's latent information processing dynamics. To examine these issues, we applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the prefrontal cortex while participants undertook decision-making training over several days. Anodal, relative to cathodal/sham tDCS, increased performance gains from training. Critically, these gains were reliable for both trained and untrained tasks. The benefit of anodal tDCS occurred for left, but not right, prefrontal stimulation, and was absent for stimulation delivered without concurrent training. Modeling revealed left anodal stimulation combined with training caused an increase in the brain's rate of evidence accumulation for both tasks. Thus tDCS applied during training has the potential to modulate training gains and give rise to transferable performance benefits for distinct cognitive operations through an increase in the rate at which the brain acquires information.

Keywords: Decision-making; Evidence Accumulation; tDCS; Training; Transfer

Journal Article.  5893 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neurology ; Clinical Neuroscience ; Neuroscience

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