Brain stimulation to left pfc modulates attention

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Brain stimulation to left prefrontal cortex modulates attentional orienting to gaze cues.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2019 Apr 29;374(1771):20180430

Authors: Wiese E, Abubshait A, Azarian B, Blumberg EJ

In social interactions, we rely on non-verbal cues like gaze direction to understand the behaviour of others. How we react to these cues is determined by the degree to which we believe that they originate from an entity with a mind capable of having internal states and showing intentional behaviour, a process called mind perception. While prior work has established a set of neural regions linked to mind perception, research has just begun to examine how mind perception affects social-cognitive mechanisms like gaze processing on a neuronal level. In the current experiment, participants performed a social attention task (i.e. attentional orienting to gaze cues) with either a human or a robot agent (i.e. manipulation of mind perception) while transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) was applied to prefrontal and temporo-parietal brain areas. The results show that temporo-parietal stimulation did not modulate mechanisms of social attention, neither in response to the human nor in response to the robot agent, whereas prefrontal stimulation enhanced attentional orienting in response to human gaze cues and attenuated attentional orienting in response to robot gaze cues. The findings suggest that mind perception modulates low-level mechanisms of social cognition via prefrontal structures, and that a certain degree of mind perception is essential in order for prefrontal stimulation to affect mechanisms of social attention. This article is part of the theme issue ‘From social brains to social robots: applying neurocognitive insights to human-robot interaction’.

PMID: 30852996 [PubMed – in process]

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