No Evidence for Enhancing Prospective Memory with Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Across Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex

Abstract

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.

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Data Availability

All materials and data from these experiments will be made available through Open Science Framework.

Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Gene A. Brewer.

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This study was approved by the Human Research Institutional Review Board at Arizona State University.

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GAB was supported by a grant from the Laboratory for Analytical Sciences during the completion of this work.

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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

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Keywords

  • Prospective memory
  • Working memory
  • tDCS
  • Neural stimulation