Attention is a complex cognitive process that selects specific stimuli for further processing. Previous research suggested the existence of three attentional networks: alerting, orienting and executive. However, one important topic is how to enhance the efficiency of attentional networks. In this context, understanding how this system behaves under two different modulatory conditions, namely transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial Random Noise Stimulation (tRNS), will provide important insights towards the understanding of the attention network system. Twenty-seven healthy students took part on a randomized single-blinded crossover study, testing the effects that involved three modalities of unilateral stimulation (tRNS, anodal tDCS, and sham) over the DLPFC, during the performance of the attention network test (ANT) in three different conditions: standard, speed and accuracy. Results showed that tRNS was able to increase attention during more complex situations, namely by increasing alerting and decreasing conflict effect in the executive network. Under the Speed condition, tRNS increased efficiency of the alerting network, as well as under the more demanding conflict network, tRNS overall increased the performance when comparing to sham. No statistical significant effects of tDCS were observed. These results are compatible with the attention requiring the synchronization of pre-existing networks, rather the reinforcement or creation of new pathways.
Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 18;11(1):6201. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85749-7.