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Enhancement of task-switching performance with transcranial direct current stimulation over the right lateral prefrontal cortex
Experimental Brain Research  (IF1.972),  Pub Date : 2021-09-12, DOI: 10.1007/s00221-021-06212-7
Prehn, Kristin, Skoglund, Anja, Strobach, Tilo

Switching between two or more tasks is a key component in our modern world. Task switching, however, requires time-consuming executive control processes and thus produces performance costs when compared to task repetitions. While executive control during task switching has been associated with activation in the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC), only few studies so far have investigated the causal relation between lPFC activation and task-switching performance by modulating lPFC activation. In these studies, the results of lPFC modulation were not conclusive or limited to the left lPFC. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the effect of non-invasive transcranial direct current stimulation [tDCS; anodal tDCS (1 mA, 20 min) vs. cathodal tDCS (1 mA, 20 min) vs. sham tDCS (1 mA, 30 s)] over the right inferior frontal junction on task-switching performance in a well-established task-switching paradigm. In response times, we found a significant effect of tDCS Condition (atDCS, ctDCS vs. sham) on task-switching costs, indicating the modulation of task-switching performance by tDCS. In addition, we found a task-unspecific tDCS Condition effect in the first experimental session, in which participants were least familiar with the task, indicating a general enhancement of task performance in both task repetitions and task-switching trials. Taken together, our study provides evidence that the right lPFC is involved in task switching as well as in general task processing. Further studies are needed to investigate whether these findings can be translated into clinically relevant improvement in older subjects or populations with executive function impairment.