A standard finding in the event-based prospective memory literature is that focal cues are more often detected than nonfocal cues. The multiprocess view of prospective memory accounts for this result by suggesting that dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)-mediated executive processes are necessary for nonfocal cue detection while hippocampally mediated spontaneous retrieval processes support detection of focal cues. In agreement with the multiprocess view, previous studies have found that working memory capacity is predictive of prospective memory performance through detection of nonfocal cues, but nonpredictive for focal cues. Because the DLPFC is known to support working memory maintenance, we predicted that anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the DLPFC would increase prospective memory cue detection for nonfocal cues when compared with a sham condition. Critically, we also expected an interaction between prospective memory cue type and stimulation such that anodal stimulation would not influence focal cue detection. Our results replicated the standard effect of improved focal compared with nonfocal cue detection. However, there was no significant effect between the sham and active tDCS conditions. Furthermore, we did not find the expected interaction between cue type and stimulation. Not only do our findings add onto the growing literature of tDCS experiments that failed to find stimulation effects to DLPFC, but it is also one of the first studies to incorporate prospective memory with tDCS.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
All materials and data from these experiments will be made available through Open Science Framework.
There were originally 116 participants in the sample, but 3 participants were removed from all analysis for having corrupted data files and 7 for failing to complete the task as instructed. We analyzed the data with these 7 subjects included, however, and there were no differences in the pattern of findings.
Ball, B. H., & Brewer, G. A. (2018). Proactive Control Processes in Event-Based prospective memory: evidence from intraindividual variability and ex-Gaussian analyses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 44(5), 793.
Basso, D., Ferrari, M., & Palladino, P. (2010). Prospective memory and working memory: asymmetrical effects during frontal lobe TMS stimulation. Neuropsychologia, 48(11), 3282–3290.
Bisiacchi, P. S., Cona, G., Schiff, S., & Basso, D. (2011). Modulation of a fronto-parietal network in event-based prospective memory: an rTMS study. Neuropsychologia, 49(8), 2225–2232.
Brewer, G. A. (2011). Analyzing Response Time Distributions: methodological and theoretical suggestions for prospective memory researchers. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 219(2), 117–124.
Brewer, G. A., Knight, J. B., Marsh, R. L., & Unsworth, N. (2010). Individual differences in event-based prospective memory: evidence for multiple processes supporting cue detection. Memory & Cognition, 38(3), 304–311.
Brunoni, A. R., & Vanderhasselt, M. A. (2014). Working memory improvement with non-invasive brain stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain and cognition, 86, 1–9.
Burgess, P. W., Dumontheil, I., Gilbert, S. J., Okuda, J., Schölvinck, M. L., & Simons, J. S. (2007). On the role of rostral prefrontal cortex (area 10) in prospective memory. In Prospective Memory: Cognitive, Neuroscience, Developmental, and Applied Perspectives. Mahwah: Erlbaum.
Cona, G., Scarpazza, C., Sartori, G., Moscovitch, M., & Bisiacchi, P. S. (2015). Neural bases of prospective memory: a meta-analysis and the “Attention to Delayed Intention”(AtoDI) model. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 52, 21–37.
Debarnot, U., Crépon, B., Orriols, E., Abram, M., Charron, S., Lion, S., et al. (2015). Intermittent theta burst stimulation over left BA10 enhances virtual reality-based prospective memory in healthy aged subjects. Neurobiology of Aging, 36(8), 2360–2369.
Einstein, G. O., & McDaniel, M. A. (1990). Normal aging and prospective memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 16(4), 717.
Einstein, G. O., & McDaniel, M. A. (2005). Prospective memory: multiple retrieval processes. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(6), 286–290.
Einstein, G. O., McDaniel, M. A., Thomas, R., Mayfield, S., Shank, H., Morrisette, N., & Breneiser, J. (2005). Multiple processes in prospective memory retrieval: factors determining monitoring versus spontaneous retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 134(3), 327–342.
Fregni, F., Boggio, P. S., Nitsche, M., Bermpohl, F., Antal, A., Feredoes, E., et al. (2005). Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of prefrontal cortex enhances working memory. Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Experimentation Cerebrale, 166(1), 23–30.
Gbadeyan, O., McMahon, K., Steinhauser, M., & Meinzer, M. (2016). Stimulation of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex enhances adaptive cognitive control: a high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation study. The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 36(50), 12530–12536.
Hering, A., Kliegel, M., Rendell, P., Craik, F., & Rose, N. (2018). Prospective memory is a key predictor of functional independence in older adults. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society: JINS, 1–6.
Hill, A. T., Fitzgerald, P. B., & Hoy, K. E. (2016). Effects of anodal transcranial direct current stimulation on working memory: a systematic review and meta-analysis of findings from healthy and neuropsychiatric populations. Brain Stimulation: Basic, Translational, and Clinical Research in Neuromodulation, 9(2), 197–208.
Horvath, J. C., Forte, J. D., & Carter, O. (2015). Quantitative review finds no evidence of cognitive effects in healthy populations from single-session transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Brain Stimulation, 8(3), 535–550.
JASP Team. (2018). JASP Version 0.9.1.
Kliegel, M., Jäger, T., & Phillips, L. H. (2008). Adult age differences in event-based prospective memory: a meta-analysis on the role of focal versus nonfocal cues.
Kliegel, M., Altgassen, M., Hering, A., & Rose, N. S. (2011). A process-model based approach to prospective memory impairment in Parkinson’s disease. Neuropsychologia, 49(8), 2166–2177.
Mulquiney, P. G., Hoy, K. E., Daskalakis, Z. J., & Fitzgerald, P. B. (2011). Improving working memory: exploring the effect of transcranial random noise stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology, 122(12), 2384–2389.
Nelson, J. T., McKinley, R. A., Golob, E. J., Warm, J. S., & Parasuraman, R. (2014). Enhancing vigilance in operators with prefrontal cortex transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). NeuroImage, 85, 900–917.
Nelson, J. T., McKinley, R. A., Phillips, C., McIntire, L., Goodyear, C., Kreiner, A., & Monforton, L. (2016). The effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on multitasking throughput capacity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10.
Nilsson, J., Lebedev, A. V., Rydström, A., & Lövdén, M. (2017). Direct-current stimulation does little to improve the outcome of working memory training in older adults. Psychological Science, 28(7), 907–920.
Paulus, W. (2003). Chapter 26 Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). In Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, Proceedings of the 2nd International Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) Symposium (Vol. 56, pp. 249–254). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Rendell, P. G., & Craik, F. (2000). Virtual week and actual week: age-related differences in prospective memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14, S43–S62.
Robison, M. K., McGuirk, W. P., & Unsworth, N. (2017). No evidence for enhancements to visual working memory with transcranial direct current stimulation to prefrontal or posterior parietal cortices. Behavioral neuroscience, 131(4), 277.
Rose, N. S., Rendell, P. G., McDaniel, M. A., Aberle, I., & Kliegel, M. (2010). Age and individual differences in prospective memory during a “Virtual Week”: the roles of working memory, vigilance, task regularity, and cue focality. Psychology and Aging, 25(3), 595–605 10.1037/a0019771.
Rose, N. S., Thomson, H., Kliegel, M., & Rendell, P. G. (in press). Practice is more effective than transcranial direct-current stimulation for boosting prospective memory in healthy young and older adults. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.
Rouder, J. N., Morey, R. D., Verhagen, J., Swagman, A. R., & Wagenmakers, E. J. (2017). Bayesian analysis of factorial designs. Psychological Methods, 22(2), 304.
Rummel, J., Smeekens, B. A., & Kane, M. J. (2017). Dealing with prospective memory demands while performing an ongoing task: shared processing, increased on-task focus, or both? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(7), 1047.
Stagg, C. J., Antal, A., & Nitsche, M. A. (2018). Physiology of transcranial direct current stimulation. The journal of ECT, 34(3), 144–152.
Strickland, L., Loft, S., Remington, R. W., & Heathcote, A. (2018). Racing to remember: a theory of decision control in event-based prospective memory. Psychological Review, 21, 03.
Talsma, L. J., Kroese, H. A., & Slagter, H. A. (2017). Boosting cognition: effects of multiple-session transcranial direct current stimulation on working memory. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(4), 755–768.
Unsworth, N., Brewer, G. A., & Spillers, G. J. (2012). Variation in cognitive failures: an individual differences investigation of everyday attention and memory failures. Journal of Memory and Language, 67(1), 1–16.
Vöröslakos, M., Takeuchi, Y., Brinyiczki, K., Zombori, T., Oliva, A., Fernández-Ruiz, A., et al. (2018). Direct effects of transcranial electric stimulation on brain circuits in rats and humans. Nature communications, 9(1), 483.
Woods, A. J., Antal, A., Bikson, M., Boggio, P. S., Brunoni, A. R., Celnik, P., et al. (2016). A technical guide to tDCS, and related non-invasive brain stimulation tools. Clinical Neurophysiology: Official Journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology, 127(2), 1031–1048.
We would like to thank Amanda Mullen, Cameron Robins, Alexis Erdington, Thomas Poniatowski, Nowed Patwary, Molly Benkaim, and Peter Whitehead for assisting with data collection.
This study was approved by the Human Research Institutional Review Board at Arizona State University.
Conflict of Interest
GAB was supported by a grant from the Laboratory for Analytical Sciences during the completion of this work.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Ellis, D.M., Veloria, G.K.G., Arnett, C.R. et al. No Evidence for Enhancing Prospective Memory with Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Across Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex. J Cogn Enhanc 4, 333–339 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00153-4
- Prospective memory
- Working memory
- Neural stimulation