Is It Possible to Improve Working Memory With Prefrontal tDCS?

Is It Possible to Improve Working Memory With Prefrontal tDCS? Bridging Currents to Working Memory Models.

A great deal of research has been performed with the promise of improving such critical cognitive functions as working memory (WM), with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a well-tolerated, inexpensive, easy-to-use intervention. Under the assumption that by delivering currents through electrodes placed in suitable locations on the scalp, it is possible to increase prefrontal cortex excitability and therefore improve WM. A growing number of studies have led to mixed results, leading to the realization that such oversimplified assumptions need revision. Models spanning currents to behavior have been advocated in order to reconcile and inform neurostimulation investigations. We articulate such multilevel exploration to tDCS/WM by briefly reviewing critical aspects at each level of analysis but focusing on the circuit level and how available biophysical WM models could inform tDCS. Indeed, such models should replace vague reference to cortical excitability changes with relevant tDCS net effects affecting neural computation and behavior in a more predictable manner. We will refer to emerging WM models and explore to what extent the general concept of excitation-inhibition (E/I) balance is a meaningful intermediate level of analysis, its relationship with gamma oscillatory activity, and the extent to which it can index tDCS effects. We will highlight some predictions that appear consistent with empirical evidence – such as non-linearities and trait dependency of effects and possibly a preferential effect on WM control functions – as well as limitations that appear related to the dynamical aspects of coding by persistent activity.

PMID: 32528366 [PubMed]

Front Psychol. 2020;11:939

Authors: Polizzotto NR, Ramakrishnan N, Cho RY




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